#2. Recycled News
The most clockwork example of news recycling is the "THERE IS WEATHER HAPPENING" stories we just mentioned (in the slow Summer months, the "dangers of the heat" stories will come fast and hard). That is, unless the media has a missing white woman to cover.
You know what we're talking about; in a world where thousands of people go missing every year, the national news will latch onto the disappearance of an attractive, middle-class white woman as if she was the only one that mattered. In 2002, we got non-stop coverage of Elizabeth Smart, then Laci Peterson. Then a few years later the "Runaway Bride" Jennifer Wilbanks, and then Natalee Holloway aka that girl who went missing in Aruba.
About the only thing that can knock a missing white woman from the headlines is MAN-EATING SHARKS. Every few years somebody will get mauled by a shark, and we're in for story after story about shark safety (even though far, far more people are attacked or killed by dogs every year).
Puppies, or "dirt sharks," are relentless in their pursuit of a meal.
The news actually declared the Summer of 2001 the Summer of the Shark after eight-year-old Jessie Arbogast was attacked by a bull shark while wading in shallow water. From then on, every subsequent attack anywhere in the world got immediate headlines. All told, shark attacks during the Summer of the Shark were, uh, down 15 percent from the year before.
Then, once November rolls around we'll be ready for all of those awesome Christmas stories. The conservative outlets will tell you all about the War on Christmas. They'll profile the latest town or shopping mall that has changed its holiday decorations after realizing not everyone practices Christianity, and explain how this will lead to the downfall of civilization.
It's not that surprising that Macy's would contribute to the apocalypse.
Meanwhile, everyone else will have their cameras positioned in department stores starting the day after Thanksgiving to cover the fact that HOLY SHIT IT IS NEAR CHRISTMAS AND PEOPLE ARE BUYING THINGS FOR CHRISTMAS FOR SOME REASON.
#1. Passing Advertisements Off as News
There's so much gray area around advertising that it's practically all gray area. And it almost encompasses all of the media we consume. For instance, as much as we love Conan O'Brien, his show--and all talk shows--are simply outlets for studios to send actors with movies or shows to promote. John Stewart's guests are often there on behalf of their publishers, to sell books. Then you have that show that aired after the Super Bowl, Undercover Boss, that is basically corporate PR disguised as a reality show. That's just the way it is.
Like Arby's delicious food and low, low prices, shameless plugs are unavoidable.
But we have to draw the line at news, don't we? Because, you know, the entire concept is that you're seeing/reading actual facts instead of a corporate sales message? Yet the LA Times ran a front-page "story" that was in fact a paid ad for a TV drama, only dressed up to look like a story.
For shame, LA Times.
Meanwhile, last year three local TV news broadcasts in Las Vegas "covered" the closing of a local car dealership, mentioning what low, low prices the cars were going for. This was back when Chrysler was cutting dealers loose, so it kind of seemed like a real news story when you were watching at home. However, the stories were done as part of an ad buy from the dealership (another local station who turned down the deal reported them to the FCC).
The Ultimate Driving Machine.
But at least they used their own reporters. Media watchdog site PR Watch discovered that five different news stations used a "Video News Release" about ethanol production and treated it as their own story. What follows is the most insane conspiracy in a local TV news station since the second half of Anchorman. The different news stations just tossed on their own graphics and pretended that the shill playing the part of the reporter, Kate Brookes, was one of their own.
As it turns out, Brookes was a publicist for Medialink, and the original video was made by Siemens AG, an engineering corporation that supplies materials to more than half the ethanol production plants in the U.S. That pisses us off so much the only thing that will calm us down is THE DELICIOUS TASTE OF DORITOS.
When Nick isn't watching only the least important parts of the news, he's working on a sequel to the greatest Kingdom Hearts parody in the history of things that involve words.
Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.
Check out some more recycled techniques that will never go away, in 6 Cheap Acting Tricks That Fool The Critics Every Time and The 10 Most Shameless Product Placements in Movie History.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 2/17/2010) because BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS.