NPR’s On the Media has a great segment this week on the history of yellow journalism, and whether it really deserves its tawdry reputation. The answer: not so much. But the money quote for me comes near the end, at the 4:48 mark, when historian W. Joseph Campbell is asked whether modern American broadsheets might benefit from getting a little yellower:
“The energy and effervescence of yellow journalism certainly could be adopted in many respects in daily American newspapers; a lot of newspapers today tend to be staid, boring, predictable… and those are the features that you would not typically associate with yellow journalism as it was practiced 110 years ago.”
Listen to the whole segment. It’s worth it.[audio:http://audio.wnyc.org/otm/otm040309e.mp3]
As I’ve written before, there are a lot of factors contributing to the recent collapse of the daily newspaper industry, many of them outside the control of the editors and reporters themselves, but I think it is past time for a little introspection as to whether delivering a staid, boring and predictable product is a recipe for successfully competing in the 21st century media market.