Making Use Of Media Twitter Freakouts
Or: What happens when you get a stupid idea in your head and can't make it go away.
Last week, Media Twitter had one of its collective freakouts over the news that Ben Smith is leaving the New York Times to start a new news outlet with Justin Smith of Bloomberg.
And let me start off by saying that I genuinely hope it succeeds, by which I mean that I hope it does something new and innovative and that pushes us all to be better. If so, the news industry will improve, we’ll all do better work, etc. etc.
“There are 200 million people who are college educated, who read in English, but who no one is really treating like an audience, but who talk to each other and talk to us,” said Ben Smith, who is not related to Justin Smith. “That’s who we see as our audience.”
I believe I speak for many people when I say:
Anyway, I went and was a smartass on Twitter about this:
Which led Ms. Charlotte Clymer to respond:
So, look. Unrelated to all this, I’ve taken a few days off to do family things. And the world continues to be bleak for MANY REASONS. Amid that darkness, in my downtime out here in the Midwest, my brain latched onto this idea and wouldn’t let go until I saw it through, even if it’s almost a week late. And so, amid bleakness, I give you one of the most useless things I’ve ever written: yep, an episode of Seinfeld about the 2022 news media, decades too late.
It’s not helpful to the world, it’s silly, it’s self-indulgent, it’s all that. I hope you enjoy, and I hope Misters Smith enjoy as well. I’m just whiling away my hours over here, watching the world burn, yadda yadda yadda, I’ll stop now.
I give you an episode entitled: “The Flora Fedora.”
[OPEN -- Jerry in comedy club]
JERRY: Do you ever think about the word "news"? It's a word that really doesn't make any sense. I mean, the word "new" is just a descriptor, like "large" or "upsetting." We've pluralized an adjective. I could call my pants "flatterings" if I wanted to, by this logic.
Are these people on your TV using this kind of syntax really the people you want writing the first draft of history?
Actually, the real problem might be that "new" is just a vague word. EVERYTHING is new. Now, if I saw Jake Tapper talking on TV as a far-right insurrection happened behind him, and he called it "today's deeply upsettings," I'd feel totally fine about that.
Well, not TOTALLY fine.
[SCENE -- Jerry and Laura, his latest girlfriend, are eating at the cafe. He is reading something on his phone. She is picking at a large omelet.]
JERRY: [still looking at his phone] What exactly is a "strategist"? How do I become a "Democratic strategist"? Do I just *be* a Democrat and complain a little about how the party does things? Or do I get licensed somehow -- like, take a test and see if my strategizing is up to par?
LAURA: Ugh -- they overloaded my omelet again. There's too much filling for this to be a good omelet. [picks veggies out with fork]
JERRY: See? You're optimizing that omelet. *You* are an omelet strategist.
LAURA: [chuckles] Hey, what are you reading, anyway?
JERRY: Political news. New York Times.
LAURA: [unimpressed] Hm.
JERRY: [pause] "Hm"? What "hm"?
LAURA: I guess I just don't like the Times.
JERRY: You don't like the Times?
LAURA: I don’t like the Times.
JERRY: Why not?
LAURA: I guess I just don't like the news.
JERRY: [shocked, brief pause] Don't like the NEWS?
LAURA: I just don't feel like it's *for* me.
LAURA: I don't feel like it's treating me like an audience.
JERRY: [sarcastically] Oh, I see. And you're part of the audience of people who like less-full omelets.
LAURA: Exactly. [goes back to omelet]
[SCENE -- Jerry's apartment. Jerry is in the kitchen with George and Elaine.]
JERRY: And then she says she "doesn't like the news." That she isn't being treated as an "audience."
GEORGE: What does that even mean?
JERRY: I know!
ELAINE: And if you don't know what's going on in the world, how do you lord it over the other people in the group text?
JERRY: What group texts are *you* in?
ELAINE: [indignant] I could be in a group text.
[Kramer busts in. (To be clear, he has been recast in this universe.)]
KRAMER: Hey guys.
KRAMER: You guys ever look at this TikTok thing?
JERRY: That's the social media network that young people like, right?
KRAMER: You got it, buddy.
JERRY: Well, I don't like being social, *and* I don't like young people, so no!
KRAMER: Yeah, I've been going through it, and Newman and I think there's a way to monetize it.
[George starts fiddling with his phone]
ELAINE: Monetize *what*, exactly?
KRAMER: Well, that's the question, isn't it?
[pause as Jerry, Elaine, and George wait for a better answer]
JERRY: It is, Kramer.
GEORGE: I just downloaded it. It looks like it's just a lot of people doing little dances. Is that what you're gonna do?
KRAMER: Nah. Newman and I are gonna come up with something, get some capital from our buddy Lloyd Braun. He’s got a new venture capital firm. I got a good feeling about this.
GEORGE: [gets up] Well. I gotta go. I gotta bring my parents' clothes to the cleaners.
JERRY: Why is this your job?
GEORGE: The cleaners in their neighborhood have all either closed or are understaffed. Covid and this "great resignation" thing. Every so often, I gotta bring their whole built-up pile of dry-clean-ables to this place a few blocks away that is still running right.
JERRY: "Great resignation" -- that usually just describes your attitude towards your parents, right, Georgie boy?
GEORGE: [flaps hand at Jerry] ehhhhh. [leaves]
ELAINE: I should go, too. I have a meeting with Mr. Peterman. Says he wants to talk to me about a "market opportunity." Some "new space" we can "disrupt" and "pioneer innovention."
JERRY: Your job sounds like a real fairy tale sometimes.
ELAINE: [on her way out] It's a madcap romp.
[SCENE -- George at his parents' place. Radio is on.]
RADIO: Welcome to All Things Considered. Sitting in, I'm Neda Ulaby.
GEORGE'S DAD: You hear this, George? All my NPR hosts are leaving.
GEORGE: [looking over a giant pile of clothes slung over a chair back] This is a mess, Dad! And what are these little slips of paper?
GEORGE'S DAD: It's not a mess. Those slips of paper are how we've organized it for you. They’re instructions for the guys down at the cleaning shop.
GEORGE: [reading slips of paper, muttering to himself] "Clean and starch," "press," "re-hem"...
GEORGE'S DAD: I remember when news felt like it was *for me*. Remember Dan Rather? That was a newsman.
GEORGE: [agitated] What does that even mean? Dan Rather was *for* everyone!
GEORGE'S DAD: [voice raising] I'm college educated, I'm English-speaking...I'm part of a huge audience!
GEORGE: And you're being served!
GEORGE'S MOM: [off-camera, yelling] WHAT ARE WE YELLING ABOUT?
GEORGE: [picks up random slip of paper from clothes] What even does this mean? "De-stink"?
GEORGE'S DAD: Your mother likes her cigars!
GEORGE'S MOM: [still off-camera] I CAN DO WHAT I WANT IN MY RETIREMENT.
[SCENE -- Elaine at J. Peterman office, talking to Mr. Peterman]
PETERMAN: Elaine, do you remember the fiasco that was the urban sombrero?
ELAINE: ...yeah. Just a little.
PETERMAN: Well, Elaine, we here at J. Peterman want to really try to get into the hat space again. It's a real market opportunity.
ELAINE: Yeah, you've mentioned.
PETERMAN: Plus, it'll give you a chance to redeem yourself. It's a real one-two punch.
ELAINE: [nods, exasperatedly]
PETERMAN: So, we want you to come up with a real slam-dunk of a hat idea. Something this Gen-Z will love. Really, something that will revive the hat in America. Something that will reshape fashion for a generation.
ELAINE: So, no pressure or anything.
PETERMAN: Oh, no no no, Elaine. How could you get that idea from what I'm saying? I hope you feel ALL the pressure. This is important! Do try to listen when I talk.
ELAINE: [droops head]
[SCENE -- Jerry in his apartment with Laura. They are at her computer. He is showing her news websites.]
LAURA: I don't know why this news thing has you so worked up.
JERRY: There has to be a news site you like. WaPo?
LAURA: Too inside-the-beltway.
JERRY: Well, by definition it *is* inside the beltway.
LAURA: [rolls eyes]
JERRY: OK, fine. New York Post?
LAURA: Stupid headlines.
JERRY: Daily Beast?
LAURA: Hate the name.
LAURA: British spellings.
[George and Elaine enter. George is buried in his phone, vaguely shifting his body around in imitation of a dance that is presumably on-screen.]
ELAINE: I was coming over and ran into Twinkle-toes McGee out on the sidewalk.
GEORGE: This Tiktok thing is great! Lemme show you a dance!
LAURA: [watches] Huh. Maybe I should try this TikTok thing.
GEORGE: [does a twirl] It's the best!
LAURA: Ok, I gotta go. [kisses Jerry, leaves]
ELAINE: So I have to create a hat that will remake American fashion or my job is pretty much kaput.
JERRY: No pressure or anything.
GEORGE: [has set up phone on Jerry's counter, still dancing to it] You should make something that appeals to the kids, like the ones on this app.
ELAINE: Thanks, George. Guys, for real: I need some ideas. Maybe let's start with names. Peterman always likes the fun names.
JERRY: The "weekender driving cap."
ELAINE: Not great. But OK, right vein -- something that conveys fun and class at the same time.
JERRY: The "formal beanie"?
ELAINE: Mmm...getting colder. Peterman does like alliteration. Something like...the funky fez?
JERRY: The bad-girl beret!
JERRY: The sensual stocking cap!
ELAINE: Come on.
GEORGE: [dancing, distracted] The flora fedora?
ELAINE: What would that even be?
GEORGE: You know...a floral-print fedora.
ELAINE: Will that look right? It'll look like your head has been upholstered.
GEORGE: [still dancing, now pelvic thrusting] I dunno. Young people like weird stuff!
JERRY: [now staring at George with Elaine, bemused] Indeed they do.
[KRAMER comes in]
KRAMER: So, Jerry. I've been thinking about your girlfriend.
JERRY: I don't like where this is going.
KRAMER: We're gonna monetize NEWS on tiktok.
ELAINE: How are you going to do that?
KRAMER: Well, you know what a good news audience would be?
KRAMER: the people who aren’t an audience.
KRAMER: yeah and there’s a lot of ‘em. Globally.
JERRY: Uh huh.
KRAMER: It’s a [jittery hand gesture] market opportunity.
[SCENE: Peterman office]
PETERMAN: Well, Elaine, we've got our best people on this hat project, but we've come up with bupkis so far. We're really counting on you. What have you got?
ELAINE: [consults list, clears throat nervously. She knows she's got nothing.] The...the weekender driving cap?
PETERMAN: Hmmm...right vein, but no.
ELAINE: The formal beanie?
PETERMAN: [waves hand] No, no. We tried that in the ‘80s and it flopped. What else?
ELAINE: The funky fez?
PETERMAN: You know, I do like alliteration. Keep 'em coming.
ELAINE: The sensual stocking cap?
PETERMAN: [sighs] dammit, Elaine, if you're not going to take this seriously, then we're not going to take your desire for a paycheck seriously. Now, come on. Give me an idea with some *oomph* behind it!
ELAINE: [consults list in front of her, stammers] The......the flora fedora?
PETERMAN: [sits up straighter] Go on.
ELAINE: Well, it's a fedora, but it comes in floral patterns?
PETERMAN: Yes! Young people love floral patterns. Very in.
ELAINE: It…it is!
PETERMAN: And it can have a little hatband!
ELAINE: Whatever you want!
PETERMAN: Ah, Elaine, I am invigorated. We’ll start producing these immediately. You've really done it. I haven't been this excited since a night I spent in Paris back during the early 2000s.
ELAINE: ...uh huh.
PETERMAN: I met a lusty young woman. And suffice it to say that she did a move on me that she called the "bad girl beret."
ELAINE: [cocks head, looks disgusted and puzzled]
[SCENE -- Kramer and Newman in a small, nondescript office, waiting for someone]
KRAMER: Hey buddy. We gotta really make this pitch [mouth pop] perfect.
NEWMAN: Yeah, no kidding. This new gig as an Amazon driver is killing me. The packages keep *coming* and *coming* and people want them *faster* and *faster*.
KRAMER: We're gonna do it, buddy.
[Lloyd Braun enters]
LLOYD: OK, fellas. I have venture capital and you have a venture. What is it?
KRAMER: We want to do news on tiktok.
LLOYD: Ooh, that's a hot space. I'm listening. Who's your audience?
NEWMAN: [ticks off on fingers] College-educated. English-speaking. Not being treated as an audience.
LLOYD: Oh, I like it.
KRAMER: And we can include some dancing -- that's also big on tiktok.
LLOYD: OK, so who's your talent?
LLOYD: You need someone young and good-looking to present all this news and dancing.
KRAMER: Better-looking than this? [winning smile]
NEWMAN: And I can dance! I really can!
LLOYD: [looks at Newman] can you?
NEWMAN: Was this whole scene just buildup to slamming me about my weight?
LLOYD: Buddies, this show has always been outrageously fatphobic.
NEWMAN: [seething] It sure has.
[SCENE -- Jerry's apartment -- Jerry and Laura are arguing]
LAURA: I wish you would just let this go!
JERRY: I just don't understand how you can have a blanket dislike of the news!
LAURA: I just don't understand what difference it makes to you!
[Elaine comes in, holding a flora fedora]
LAURA: Don't you knock???
ELAINE: Huh. I guess we never do.
LAURA: [to Jerry] I gotta go. I can’t take this anymore.
ELAINE: Hey wait. Laura. Before you leave...would you wear this? [holds up hat]
LAURA: [demeanor changes] Huh. Maybe. [puts it on, looks at self in phone] Actually, this is kind of cute. Thanks, Elaine!
ELAINE: No problem!
LAURA: [coldly, as she leaves] Jerry.
ELAINE: [after Laura is gone] I don't like her for you.
JERRY: I know. Doesn't even care about what's going on in the world.
ELAINE: No, it’s not that; it’s that she's 19. Jerry Seinfeld, what is it with you dating so young?
JERRY: [sips coffee] What's your point exactly?
[SCENE -- outside Jerry's apartment building]
[George is walking down the sidewalk, one arm bundled with clothes with slips of paper taped to them. Other hand holds phone. George is still vaguely dancing as he walks and not paying attention to where he's going.]
[Laura is wearing her new hat, walking in opposite direction]
[Newman is pulling up to the curb in Amazon truck]
NEWMAN: [muttering angrily] Gotta deliver fast. Gotta park fast and deliver the packages fast. That's what I gotta do. Every day.
[Newman yanks the wheel to pull into a parking spot, but yanks too hard and bumps over curb and onto sidewalk]
[Truck barely misses Laura as she dodges it.]
LAURA: Hey! Watch where you're going!
[George still isn't looking, truck grazes George and he falls over, into Laura. They disappear into a heap of clothing.]
NEWMAN: [rushes out of truck] Oh no oh no oh no. [Helps Laura and George out of pile] Oh this is going to be bad for my Amazon driver score for the day. Are you ok?
LAURA: [dazed] Yeah, I'm fine. [sits upright from pile of clothes. A slip of paper that says "press" has gotten stuck in the hatband.] I'm fine. [Newman is staring.] What are you staring at?
NEWMAN: I just had an amazing idea. How do you feel about the news?
LAURA: I feel like it's not for me.
NEWMAN: [craftily] Step into my office!
GEORGE: [from under clothes, weakly] I'm fine, by the way.
[SCENE -- inside Jerry's apartment]
ELAINE: So what happened with Laura?
JERRY: Broke up with me a week ago. It's fine. Now, I have more time to read the news. [sips coffee]
ELAINE: [chuckles] Uh huh. [checking phone] Oh wow. Get this! The flora fedora? I guess it's taking off online! Peterman just emailed me that they've been getting a bunch of interest because kids on tiktok like it. Here he sent a link [pauses] Oh my God! It’s Laura!
JERRY: [poking at phone] [pause] This is MY Laura!
ELAINE: Haha. That’s funny. “Laura in the flora fedora.”
VOICE FROM PHONE: Hey, it's me, Laura, and I'm here in my flora fedora from J. Peterman, and I'm here with today's news.
JERRY: Look at this caption! A Kramerica Industries production???
ELAINE: Jerry, I'd like to thank you for bringing Laura into our lives. I'm sure Kramer would like to thank you, too.
JERRY: [agog at phone] Who is this even for???
[cut to: George's dad]
GEORGE'S DAD: [looking at phone, dancing while listening to Laura's voice] Now THIS is news for me.
[cut to George, in hospital bed]
GEORGE: [In traction, but delightedly bobbing head to news on his phone] I get it now. I'm the audience for this!