And, oh boy, did simple land in our lap this summer.
Alycia Lane. Larry Mendte.
The nonsensical distraction of all time.
Lane: Hot. Partyiffic. Dangerous. $800,000 a year.
Mendte: Local. Yentaiffic. Makeupish. $700,000 a year.
It's a dream distraction from real-world woes: late-night shenanigans in Gotham, clandestine email snooping, a disc jockey boyfriend and an anchorwoman wife.
And all the bit players: competing gossip columnists, shifty station managers, beady-eyed lawyers and mysterious FBI men.
And out there, somewhere, waiting to be viewed by all, the jewels that could by themselves monetize a website, explode a blogger's traffic numbers, launch a Flickr knockoff.
You know of what we speak.
The Alycia Lane bikini shots.
I recently caught a radio interview with David Simon, the writer, producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter.
Simon was the creative force behind Homicide and The Wire, and now Generation Kill. He's the guy people stuck at newspapers want to be. (It's a safe bet Simon wouldn't give a shit about the Alycia Lane/Larry Mendte story.)
He was being interviewed by XM's Bob Edwards, and at some point he started in on newspapers, about which he is passionate.
Simon doesn't buy the conventional wisdom that the Internet came out of nowhere and screwed the economics of journalism so thoroughly that the model could no longer work.
The truth, as he sees it, is that in the '80s and '90s--before the Internet, when newspapers were fat and profitable--the greedy chains and owners sucked up all the profits. If they'd put money back into the product instead, their newspapers would have become "so elemental to daily life" that no one could've done without them. Come the Internet, they could have charged for content and been competitive with advertising rates.
"I've never seen an industry as mismanaged as this one in my lifetime," Simon told Edwards. "It'll be terrifying not to have journalism as a bastion of argument against the excesses of government."
"I KEESS ALEECIA LAIN! I KEESS HER IN HER BEEKEENEE!!!"
That was one reader's comment to a post about Alycia Lane that appeared on Philadelphia Will Do, a blog operated by this newspaper and written mostly with tongue firmly in cheek by Daniel McQuade.