Moe the Chimp and Octomom have something in common.
No. The pair is not headlining with the Amazing Bearded Lady and the Human Pin Cushion outside the pig races at a county fair somewhere.
They are part of what’s driving a huge change in local reporting around the country.
On the Internet, tales of Moe’s escape from a San Bernardino animal sanctuary last summer drove eyeballs to our Web site in amazing numbers. As a result we continued to cover the saga until it became clear Moe was no more.
As for Nadya Suleman, the La Habra woman who gave birth to the world’s longest-surviving set of octuplets, not only is she a one-woman baby machine, she is also is a force of nature on the Internet.
Our blog, Octorazzi, dedicated to Octomom’s every move, has seen so much Web traffic, it even drew attention from CNN’s Nancy Grace over the weekend.
We editors sit in our ivory tower, stroking our beards and discussing what we believe you want in the newspaper: The economy, swine flu, and city council skullduggery.
Sometimes it’s the sort of steady community-oriented coverage that afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Sometimes its nothing more than a story about the local Lions Club doing something nice for a blind senior.
Online you tell us you want Octomom, Moe, crime, crime and more crime.
In fact, most of this is journalism in the same way McDonald’s is food. It’s empty, tasteless and devoid of nutritional value.
The U.S. Senate took up a discussion of the future of newspaper journalism Wednesday. During a lengthy hearing before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee, Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, called us “challenged.”
We are in fact challenged.
Unfortunately, those challenges extend well beyond Octomom and Moe. Twitter, Facebook and Google News are all perceived as threats to traditional newspapers.
“You are whistling past the graveyard if you don’t believe that’s the wave of the future,” said one participant in the hearing.
Others taking part in Wednesday’s hearing included David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun cops reporter, who created “The Wire” for HBO and Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post.
Simon rightly pointed out that “citizen journalists” (read bloggers) will never be able to do the sort of investigative journalism that remains the hallmark of newspapers. Huffington, on the other hand, defended her blog and the citizen journalists who contribute as the absolute future of reporting.
“The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day I believe we will have reached equilibrium.”
C-SPAN, which streamed the hearing live on the Internet, subtitled their video “Hearing to Examine the Future of Journalism.”
I guess there’s hope. Neither Moe nor Octomom were called upon to give an opinion.