We pick up our newspapers v. reality TV debate again with part two of all the Gen Y job-hunter needs to know.
For an equally fun, but quicker, photo-filled version, see here.
SCORE SO FAR: Newspapers 2; Reality TV 1
Lesson 4: It’s all in the Networking
Reality show contestants may form “alliances,” but when it comes to creating a lasting network, nothing’s better than your local paper. That’s where you’ll find your community’s real luminaries, and potentially amass the tools to connect with them (since they’d probably rather bond over a shared love of Dick Cavett’s blog than an unhealthy obsession with The Hills). But my favorite insight from papers is about the art and luck of networking. Read successful people’s stories and it’s easy to see that most weren’t plotting ascendancy from the womb. They found a passion, made some mistakes, met some people, worked hard, and worked it out. And ultimately, that’s a better way to network than the strategies employed by, say, the social-climbing Real Housewives of New York City.
The “art and luck” hypothesis works, but I can’t believe you threw Dick Cavett and The Hills into the same sentence. Are you writing for Ashton or Demi?! Dictionary.com calls networking a “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” Sounds like the Big Brother House to me. Contestants on these shows have to share knowledge and resources skillfully, and they must be supportive of their peers. But while these relationships dominate, competitors who base alliances on utility alone rarely make the finals; the minute it gets tense, their networks fall apart. I ain’t gonna lie: Reality TV isn’t the forum for studying long-term networks, but it does show the value of true personal connections when you’re trying to build one.
WINNER: Newspapers. Because networks should be built, not brokered under penalty of ejection from the Big Brother house.
Lesson 5: Oh, the Pressure
Newspapers dissect drama while reality shows exploit drama. When it comes to office drama – from interoffice conflict to taking criticism – you might want to act impulsively and incite a brawl like a houseguest on The Real World or The Ultimate Fighter. But resist the urge. You’ll be better served looking at every angle and coming up with a measured response, the way a good newspaper story does. That’s always going to trump the emotionally-charged outbursts of reality TV (assuming you want to keep your job). Where drama’s concerned, what’s good for TV is bad for business.
I’m all for a measured response, but angry coworkers or critical bosses can be as tough as any ultimate fighter, and chances are a well-written story isn’t going to be much help. But what is reality TV for if not dramatic situations? Like you said, once you’ve played “20 questions designed to dissolve you” with Donald Trump or Project Runway’s Nina Garcia, a plain old evaluation from your boss probably won’t faze you. And, hi, if you want to learn how to handle yourself in the midst of unmanageable chaos, look no further than Supernanny Jo Frost, whose workplace, like so many of ours, features huge crybabies, crazy clients, and all kinds of anger management issues. So if you need is a good lesson in confident, creative conflict-resolution, turn on JoJo. No, I mean it. Seriously.
WINNER: Reality TV. Because you have to see crazy people to believe them.
Lesson 6: Who’s Cool Around the Water-Cooler?
In the words (and spelling) of MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”. The water cooler is an inter-office retreat where the stress and pressure of the day are abandoned in favor of gossip and irreverence. Global conflicts and local crime rates have no place near the cooler — and giggling and snickering do. No wonder reality television reigns supreme. But most of all, the water cooler is about circulation. And the combined daily circulation of USA Today, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal is only a fraction of the 30 million people watch every episode of American Idol. If you want to make water cooler friends, Simon Cowell is your best bet.
This is one place where newspapers simply have to bow to the juggernaut that is reality TV. Because while you may impress a superior or two with your weekend news items, once you’re dealing with people you actually know, they’d probably much rather talk about the latest American Idol or Top Chef than that hot front-page story in the paper that they were too tired to read all weekend. So while you should have a few paper gems in your back pocket, in the unlikely event your CEO drops by the water cooler huddle and doesn’t want to hear your predictions for America’s Next Top Model, I’m probably going to have to defer to Jake on this one…
WINNER: Reality TV. Because 30 million people can’t all be wrong — and even if they are, you want them to like you!
Lesson 7: No Direction, No Hope
(Note: Like Arnold in Terminator 2, I recognize and accept that I am going to get killed in this episode.) The beauty of reality TV is that we get to witness the struggles of young people who are searching for direction. Unlike newsworthy characters in the paper, reality TV characters are not at the top of their professional game. If they were, they wouldn’t have time to flirt with Bret Michaels or kayak around the world on The Amazing Race. (Even the (so-called) celebrities on VH1’s Celeb-reality programming are unsure of their career trajectory.) But we get to learn from and laugh at their mistakes. We learn that it’s okay to be vaguely ambitious. And we learn that it’s not okay to swim naked in a fish tank (on camera) like Isaac did in The Real World: Sydney, as that could affect your chances of landing a job in the future.
Just watch the Real World Awards Bash ’08, and it’s clear reality TV can show you which direction not to go. Case in point: your poor, hilarious, aquarium-diving Isaac, who seemed to be only half-joking when he said in his update that he was now living in a friend’s basement, stealing to eat, and grateful to MTV for ruining his life. So please, for the love of all things holy, do not look to reality TV to plan your life. Open instead the pages, be they paper or web, of your favorite newspaper and read it all. Use the real estate listings to plan your future as a homeowner. Transition from college chic to yo-pro appropriate with the style section. Oh, and consider scanning the actual news, since the kind of person you want to become would probably like to know at least as much about American politics as about Celebreality.
WINNER: Newspapers. Because Bret Michaels’ groupies may be relatable, but you should probably be aiming for “respectable.”
FINAL SCORE: Newspapers 4; Reality TV 3
And there you have it, sports fans — the exciting conclusion to The Gig’s first-ever face-off. Those defenders of the written word out there can breathe easy for the time being, as newspapers pulled it out in the end. But we wouldn’t get too comfortable. Reality TV, long maligned as a straight line to procrastination and increased stupidity for young people everywhere, almost squeaked by. And that, combined with that stat from the New Yorker about newspapers going extinct somewhere around 2043 (you laugh, I link), would have me worried, paper-people. But for now, keep reading your Posts, Tribunes, Chronicles, and Times(es). And watching The Hills, of course. Good (job) hunting.