In my line of work, the tv news business, it’s fashionable to rechristen people who formerly held titles like ‘news director’ (the person in charge of the station’s local news) or ‘program director’ (the person who buys and schedules the other programs the station runs) as ‘content managers.’
‘Content managers’ are the industry’s reaction to the fact that the internet is the bright, shiny new toy, especially in such applications as Facebook and Twitter.
(Yes, I know the internet has been around for a long time. Yes, I know Facebook and Twitter aren’t real businesses, in that they lack the important ingredient of a way to make piles of money, which is, after all, why the internet was invented. But I tell you, for all its noise about the net for the last decade, things didn’t get serious for most tv stations until the calamity of the financial crash. Then we started caring that these pesky social networking tools were getting popular, and we don’t like it when other media get too popular.)
Anyway, there’s the potential problem of demoting news to just another kind of ‘content,’ a word that has none of the moral obligations that journalism does. ‘Content’ can be a blog an anchor keeps, the comments viewers submit to news stories or advertising that gets blended with regular news.
This is not a big thing, for the most part. You can still tell the difference between news and advertising, between a report of an accident and a blogger’s take on it. The danger, such as it is, is what I call the ‘gray goo’ problem.
Gray goo is what scientists use to describe the nightmare, end of the world scenario in which nanotechnology has run amok and reduced everything to an undifferentiated gray goo. It’s a fun idea.
That’s the problem with calling everything ‘content’; it gets easier to treat everything as grist for the mill. You lose the individual flavors.
But let me end on a happy note: two albums from the weekend that are so defined by the musicians who made them, have so much of their own pungency, I can’t imagine either being shrugged at as just more ‘content.’
Roscoe Holcomb was a musician from Kentucky. His is a wild sound, hard to ‘get’ at first. In fact, the cd I bought is called “An Untamed Sense of Control.” It’s a straight shot from the old, weird America. People deeply into what I guess is still called folk know Holcomb, but I didn’t.
Also, Mos Def’s 1999 debut, “Black On Both Sides.” I haven’t spent much time with it, but I like Mos Def a whole lot, and the rhymes and rhythms I heard listening in my car Sunday could only have come from him. Not ‘content,’ by any means.