Techno-Files, or Anatomy of a Link-Bait Vanity Fair Story

Nearly three weeks after the Vanity Fair thrashing Cincinnati and Appalachia hit the Web, my hometown media finally caught the Fever. The last 24 hours has been an interesting mix of blogo-rage, media coverage and Twitter conversation.

As a journalist, a professor and an author, I’m intrigued by how stories develop. This one in particular.

My casual tracking points to the idea that this was started because two former members of the media were annoyed. While my response passed through the Gawker/digerati circles, it was Kate, who I believe has connections to the traditional media in Cincinnati, who was picked up by the local NBC affiliate WLWT.

Her post – along with mine – were classified as “a groundswell,” which has all kinds of problems. Although it may be that I’ve simply missed a series of blogs posts on this. I can only go by what was reported.

Regardless, there’s an even more disturbing problem: The length of time between the publication of Vanity Fair’s article and the response in Cincinnati by the local media.

I’m not sure what this says. That the coasts are so disconnected from the Midwest that the media and blogosphere’s pay little attention to each other? That Appalachians have simply grown accustomed to such intellectually lazy work about them?

It’s probably more complex than I can suss out.

While it suggests a common problem with the traditional media, that’s a criticism for another time. For now, here’s the story timeline:

Jan 25, 2010: The original Vanity Fair article, “Roll Over, Charles Darwin

Jan 25, 2010: My Twitter rage

Jan 26, 2010: Gawker posts some of my more “colorful” Tweets

Jan 26, 2010: My blog post, “Techno-Files, or Why I Learned to Hate the Coast

Jan 28, 2010: The Cincinnati Man blog post, “Fail. Feck You Too Vanity Fair Magazine

Feb 16, 2010: Kate Crossen writes a blog post, “To Whom It May Concern

Feb 16, 2010: Cincinnati NBC television affiliate WLWT post, “Bloggers Blast Vanity Fair For Story on Creation Museum

Feb 16, 2010: The Cincinnati Man sarcastic response to the story, “WLWT is Way Behind on This One

Feb 16, 2010: Cincinnati Re-Adventure’s post, “Dear Vanity Fair

Feb 16, 2010: Cincinnati NBC television affiliate WLWT does a brief on-air story about the blog reaction, 11 pm news

Feb 17, 2010: Gannett’s Cincinnati Enquirer weighs in with this editorial, “Vanity Fair misses the story – and messes with Cincinnati’s blogosphere

Feb 17, 2010: Author JR writes a blog post, “Cincy as a home base…and some homework for Vanity Fair

Feb 17, 2010: Michelle Lenz writes a blog post, “Addressing Vanity Fair

Feb 17, 2010: Of course, it wouldn’t be Cincinnati if WLW radio celeb Willie Cunningham didn’t weigh in

Ongoing, 2010: Follow the Twitter conversation (search terms: Vanity Fair, Cincinnati)

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  • Jenny Kessler February 19, 2010   Reply →

    I also thought it was interesting to watch the outrage unfold. I noticed TCM's post back in late January, and then was suprised to see it catch on again a few weeks later.

    I'm taking a class on trend forecasting, and we learned about trends and how they tend to unfold on a curve. Seems like you and TCM were on the emergant end of the curve, and everyone else made it more mainstream.

    So, congratulations, you trend-setter, you.

  • Brad_King February 19, 2010   Reply →

    Hey Jenny:

    Thanks for reading.

    I would say it went “mainstream” locally – but as I have said, this was already being discussed in national circles. That's how I first waded into it. So it went “mainstream” in the sense that local Cincy folks got riled up.

    My main point with this, though, isn't about WHO started WHAT. It's the hometown newspaper, which is part of Gannett, somehow doesn't know what is happening at Vanity Fair, which is part of Conde Nast. Seems like a poor job of monitoring the national conversation about the city.

    This is just one reason why people have less “need” for traditional media outlets.

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