Thursday, December 22, 2011

When News is Old

It's not easy being fresh. Newspaper columnists, reporters of all media, and of course, preachers have a rough time producing original material.

Some media sort gave up a long time ago. The agony aunts and uncles among them take leads from readers and chums on a sad personal tale. Talking heads on TV and radio have it easy — writers print out stuff they read off paper or prompters.

If you want to see and hear to good stuff, hot, fresh and innovative, head over to Chris Lovett's shop. He and his jolly gang of BU communications students and staff ID features, do real video reporting, and sit with singles and groups for terse, innovative interviews. Chris links to some on Facebook, to others on the NNN page, and others on his Vimeo area. This not only goes on day after day, but it is original and insightful.

If anything, Chris is overly fair. He often is the idea midwife, as in Socrates' maieutic method of questioning guests. He's so savvy and has such deep perspective that it must be tough for him to analyze without verbally smacking some guests around. He manages quite well.

That's rare to the point of being singular among news types. It seems at any given news cycle, they share and slightly vary maybe a dozen themes. They often draw on the same sources and stack their little reportage still life a little differently from what they have recently heard.

They are far from the only ones to do this. Hell, they're earning a living. Likewise, clerics, particularly Protestant preachers who have to write and deliver two to four sermons a month struggle with such fatigue and imitation.

From the pew, it may seem like 10 to 30 minutes of fresh material a week would be easy. Well, try that yourself, particularly if you are out visiting the ill, counseling the befuddled, conducting rituals, managing staff members, co-planning services including music and more.

For the unchurched and those have no cause to attend services in other churches, be aware that ministers habitually steal from one another. As with news themes, there seem to be a limited number to go around for those who have to deliver constantly. Fortunately for those with sermon block, ministers share sermons in many publications, and now in podcasts and on blogs. They give; they take.

The same topics spread around with very similar treatments. There's no foul here, unless you have reason to be in four different churches in a month hearing the same bit. Even some of those bear repeating. The seasonal revival of Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, continues to work. Likewise, so do the more recent Who Moved My Cheese and You Be Glad at that star!

Attach no shame to a preacher who delivers the classics well. Folk who are wellsprings of fresh ideas are rarer than oases in huge, dry deserts.

Oddly for me though, I don't have writer's block. I could easily write multiple posts on my various blogs daily should I choose and thing my followers or stumblers-upon could take it.

I have many shortcomings. I immediately think of my lack of musical ability. I can't keep a tune or hit a note on command or keep a good rhythm clapping or dancing or play any instrument other than toys, such jug band ones as jaw harp, nose flute and of course, jug.

It was in college that I became aware that most folk have serious problems writing, largely through lack of ideas for topics. I helped teammates, classmates, roommates, and girlfriends. On the three-times-a-week college paper, I could supply a column for each, write news stories, and one year help the often weeping editor-in-chief by ghosting her weekly editorial when she blanked a hour before press time.

Today's internet world is great for swapping and stealing ideas though. Reporters and clerics alike can develop good searching skills (also difficult for some folk), so they have a solid place to start. You'd expect and hope that they don't cut and paste though.

This musing had a trigger last evening as I heard my voice on an NPR segment on WBUR. The reporter was flogging other folks' ideas about Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown. So, in the traffic tie-up, I listened to her treatment. More on this in the next post.


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