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Pop Culture References

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by HeinekenMan, Aug 12, 2006.

  1. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    ESPN.com is featuring a story about Sean Taylor today. Here's the tease: "Sean Taylor is the type of player you custom build in Madden: physical, quick, ferocious. But in real life, he's given his coaches migraines. Can the Redskins safety get it right on and off the field?"

    Perhaps I'm the only person on the planet who doesn't play Madden, but I absolutely cringed at this reference to pop culture. First, it's weak. Additionally, I'm not even sure it's grammatically correct. Or is the writer suggesting that you can go inside of John Madden and build players? And let's not forget the "you" reference, which seems to assume that the reader definitely plays Madden football and only custom builds players who are physical, quick and ferocious. Of course, ESPN.com sucks, particularly on Saturday afternoons. But it brings up a good point.

    The reality is that I've seen dozens of writers who toss whimsical pop culture references into stories. In fact, some of them are write quite well. Many stories I read today feature references from the hip hop world, and every one of them turns my stomach. This is professional journalism; you can't start throwing "bling" and "baller" into stories. This isn't your personal journal, and it's not the print version of MTV News.

    Sure, a lot of folks know those terms, but where does it end? Every time the bar is set, somebody raises it higher by introducing another term into the business as if it's necessary. It's not about being cool; it's a job. If you need to use these terms to entertain your audience, you're defeated before you start. A well-written, compelling story is what draws an audience.

    Nearly everyone with a spread of common sense understands that you don't use slang terms that refer to sports feats. But shouldn't this apply to all verbiage? A lot of folks on this board are throwing the term ATM around. That's fine. I haven't had a chance to see Clerks II, which, I assume, is to blame for the reference. I loved Clerks, and I've seen everything that Kevin Smith has done. What scares me is that somebody is going to get brave and toss the term into a story. Hey, it could happen.

    Okay, rant over. Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.
  2. Columbo

    Columbo Active Member

    I love.... love skilled cultural references.
  3. Ensign Pulver

    Ensign Pulver Member

    Respectfully disagree, H-Man. Pop culutre is, among other things, the language of the time. If you spray references from a fire hose, or get too esoteric, then yes, they can make your writing seem gimmicky and shallow. But the Madden reference works for me. I don't play the game, but I can infer -- one of its features allows you to build a (hypothetically perfect) cyber football player. I got it, and I didn't have to work hard to get it.

    Pop culture references (used judiciously) give writing a conversational tone. At best, they allow you to connect with the reader on a personal level. At worst, well, as long as you don't stop the reader dead in his/her tracks, no harm no foul. The reader can move on down the story and the reference doesn't detract from the story-telling.
  4. Ensign Pulver

    Ensign Pulver Member

    Make that, "culture." Where's the desk when you need it?
  5. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    Where I get worried is when someone tries to drop a very obscure pop reference in. If you have to take time to explain the reference, then it won't work.
  6. pallister

    pallister Guest

    Who's Cosmo?
  7. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    Har. ;D
  8. ARD

    ARD Member

    Doesn't bother me too much at ESPN.com, where I'd expect enough readers to get the reference. Daily newspaper would be another story.
  9. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    Tell that to our desk. I wrote: You don't have to be Oliver Stone to consider at least the appearance of a conspiracy here.

    It became: You don't have to be (movie director) Oliver Stone to consider at least the appearance of a conspiracy here.

    Yes, the copy desk added his title -- in parentheses.
  10. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    It could have been worse (see above).
  11. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    Oh, I can tell you worse.
  12. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    Back in highschool, when I threw a curve it was like I was pitching in RBI Baseball.
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