Thursday, September 15, 2016

Everything Terrible About TV News in One Bullet Point

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 12:45 PM

WREG is hiring an assistant news director to...

• Supervise
• Set the tone of the station's content
• Put the SHIZZLE into breaking news.

And no, although the bolding and scare caps are all mine, I'm not paraphrasing for humorous effect. As this screenshot from WREG's  job listing shows, "schizzle" is expected. A made up word. That they misspelled
Not meaning. Not context. Not even value. But "schizzle." In "Breaking News," which — unless there's a Better Call Saul prequel in the works I don't know about — isn't even a proper noun. 

Apart from racial coding and awkward stabs at millennial-speak, what can it even mean? Because, if we're working with the strict OED definition, putting "shit" into breaking news sounds unethical, at least. So I'm going to work under the hypothesis that "schizzle" is some 2016-ized version of an Elmer Wheeler classic: "Sell the Sizzle, not the steak." Which is also unethical, but with a longer, prouder tradition

"It's the tang in the cheese, the crunch in the cracker, the whiff in the coffee and the pucker in the pickle."

Wheeler wasn't a journalist, he was a salesman. In fact, he was, "America's greatest salesman," and a marketing pioneer whose techniques for influencing consumers remain ubiquitous. When you're in the fast food line and the first amplified words you hear are, "Would you like to try a hot pie today," or similar, you are (as this wonderful vintage slice from the New Yorker shows) under Wheeler's "subtle influence." 

Better still, watch this video where the salesman's salesman rolls out the idea of "selling the sizzle" and other principals designed to make sales, "foolproof and faster." It's the "sizzle that sells the steak, and not the cow," the maestro proclaims. "Hidden in everything you sell in life is a sizzle — the tang in the cheese, the crunch in the cracker, the whiff in the coffee and the pucker in the pickle."

Ahead of Twitter by 70-years, Wheeler had another mantra: "Don't write — telegraph!" Because, "Your first ten words are more important than your next 10,000."

Wheeler's right on both accounts, but unless WREG is hiring an assistant marketing director, the context is jacked. Journalists need help telling stories better, not selling them better. Nobody can survive on "schizzle" alone, and after a long steady diet of nothing but, I bet there's a lot of folks out there in consumer-land ready to prove Wheeler wrong and pounce at the mere mention of a thick, juicy schteak. 

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