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Oh no, not this story again

Posted by Mark Leccese  February 2, 2011 11:32 AM

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Down at the bottom of the Letters to the Editor section in today’s Globe hunkers a letter with the headline “Hasty Pudding: Oh no, not this again.”

Regarding the annual Hasty Pudding awards, the question begs to be asked: Why do you cover this frat-boy nonsense? What redeeming value does this have to your readers? Year after year. The same tripe.

Alan Gadde
Sandown, N.H.

Thank you, Mr. Gadde. Somebody had to say it. Seeing those inane Hasty Pudding photos every year is like … it’s like Groundhog Day or something.

Did I just mention Groundhog Day? At 10 o’clock this morning, a Google News search for “Punxsutawney Phil” turned up 1,352 hits. The top hit, for reasons I cannot fathom, was Reuters India.

The good news this year (eye roll) is that the rodent did not see his shadow, so spring will come early (extreme eye roll). Google it yourself and you can see the same photo of the guy in the top hat we see every year, you can read the same paragraph that begins or ends “according to tradition…” we read every year, and you can puzzle over the same explanation of just where the heck Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is we get every year.

The problem, Mr. Gadde, is bigger than the media reflexively covering, year after year after year, a social club for preening Harvard students getting their pictures taken with a Hollywood celebrity. It’s the media reflexively covering, year after year after year, stories you can predict armed with nothing more than a calendar.

For Hey I’ve read that before, just with different names stories, there’s no month like February.

Valentine’s Day: There’s the standard unusual marriage proposal story, which could in any given year include proposing via billboard (now a worldwide phenomenon), on a sports stadium jumbotron, or in a newspaper ad.

(By the way, there are actually 10 St. Valentines — or maybe Sts. Valentine — in the Roman Catholic Church. Our St. Valentine, the patron saint of love, was a priest in Rome who was clubbed and beheaded in the reign of Claudis II for assisting martyrs and marrying Christian couples. He is also the patron saint of travellers, greetings, young people, epilepsy, fainting, plague and bee keepers.)

If by some chance you’re a reporter looking to write one of these hardy perennials for Valentine’s Day, look no further than the Census Bureau’s “Facts for Features: Valentine’s Day 2011” for data on candy, flowers, jewelry, marriage and towns in the U.S. with romantic-sounding names. Who knew American’s ate 24.3 pounds of candy per person in 2009, or that there’s a Loveland, Ohio?

The Oscars: The motherlode of Hey I’ve read that before, just with different names stories. You’ve got your movie that got the most nominations story, your how can the Academy overlook this brilliant film/performance story, you crystal ball Oscar predictions story.

And you’ve got interminable coverage of the best and worst dressed stars, written and photographed for people sitting at their computers at home in their sweatpants.

The Super Bowl: Every year we get two weeks worth of stories, photos and TV news packages a bunch of hulking guys holding press conferences to say, um, nothing much interesting.

Of course, there are the annual charged-but-not-convicted athlete becomes upstanding community member stories. (Search Google News, and the words “Roethlisberger,” “rehab” and “image” appear in 984 stories.) And the stories about players with too much time on their hands going to places they should know better than to go with all that media hanging around.

There’s even coverage about how there’s too much coverage.

Notice I haven’t mentioned stories about snow storms. Let’s leave it at this: In the past 30 days, the word “snow” has appeared in Boston Globe stories 219 times.

Follow @mleccese on Twitter.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Mark Leccese, a journalism professor at Emerson College, covered Massachusetts politics, business and the arts for more than 25 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and magazine writer. He has More »

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