Sunday, March 26, 2017

"The Wire" creator David Simon on the future of news ...

While I only watched two seasons of the groundbreaking crime drama The Wire, I can fully appreciate the depth and significance of the show. What I didn't know about was the depth and significance of its creator, David Simon. Prior to becoming the writer of one of HBO's first genre-changing shows, David Simon began his career as a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Undoubtedly, the gritty nature of crime reporting honed his skills of insight and expression around the darkest of our social issues including the drug war and race. Since finishing his run as a television writer of one of last decade's most watched and talked about shows, Simon has become a prominent voice in the social media world of cultural and socio-political blogging. And, this month Simon will be in Denver to receive the Denver Press Club's Damon Runyon Award. In anticipation of that career moment, the Denver Post's John Wenzel recently sat down with Simon to discuss his career and his thoughts on the ever-fascinating world of journalism, news, and info-tainment in 2016/17. I really appreciated his thoughts on the future of news, looking in the rearview mirror at how journalism somewhat missed the challenges and opportunities posed by an on-line world.

Cable succeeded — and is now threatened by some of the same forces, including streaming and people pulling the plug — because of its subscription model. Look to the cable model for what journalism should have been doing in the 1980s and ’90s, particularly in the ’90s as we were coming online. Not every station can be self-sustaining. Not everybody wants C-SPAN, The Weather Channel or The Cooking Channel. It’s effectively like that with a daily, general-interest newspaper. Everybody got it for different reasons: the metro section, the classified section. The model was such that the things people found essential — like sports or stock tables — sustained things like covering the zoning board. What would have happened if, at the point which you were going online, you were offered what the cable companies were offering? By basically synthesizing the visual information world under one bill, they were able to offer content and sustain the stuff that wasn’t all that popular. On a small scale, that’s what happened to me at HBO, because I was in same tent as “The Sopranos,” and I was basically the metro section.

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