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Posted at 05:06 PM ET, 10/23/2012

Clark Kent leaves the Daily Planet


The strip is noted for its realism. (AP Photo/DC Comics, File) (Anonymous - AP)
Well, Clark Kent is leaving the Daily Planet.

Superman is resigning his day job as a reporter and going rogue, possibly as a self-employed blogger.

Which is perfectly fine if you don’t need healthcare unless confronted with Kryptonite.

Still, I find it odd that Superman is quitting a day job on the delightful sinking ship of print media. He is, after all, exactly what the job demands. His boss probably showed up on his first day and said, “Hey! I see that you are a writer, yes? Do you also do video? Do you code? Can you build an engaging photo gallery six minutes ago? How about an interactive graphic? Would you mind terribly leaping several buildings at a single bound and flying through the air getting mistaken for a plane or a bird?”

You have to be Superman to survive it.

But Superman writer Scott Lobdell told USA Today that “This is really what happens when a 27-year-old guy is behind a desk and he has to take instruction from a larger conglomerate with concerns that aren't really his own... Superman is arguably the most powerful person on the planet, but how long can he sit at his desk with someone breathing down his neck and treating him like the least important person in the world?”

There you have it.

Now he’s off into the ether, "more likely to start the next Huffington Post or the next Drudge Report than he is to go find someone else to get assignments or draw a paycheck from.”

Good luck, Clark!

All I can say is, I hope he’s fond of photo galleries. Because if he doesn’t like photo galleries, he is going to have a rude awakening.

I have a horrifying vision of Clark Kent nestled somewhere in his Superman pajamas typing angrily with several days’ worth of stubble about the fact that “extraterrestrials may indeed be among us, but many of them are only trying to help.” Or something.

He’ll need a day job to support his new day job.

But what does this say about the State of the Media?

In one panel, Clark confronts his editor. “I’ve been a journalist for barely five years now. Why am I the one sounding like a grizzled ink-stained wretch who believes news should be about — I don’t know, news?”

“Go easy on us mortals, Clark. Times are changing and print is a dying medium,” says his editor, or at least a guy I assume is his editor based on his hairstyle. “I don’t like it, but the only hope we have of delivering any news at all is to give the people what they want to read — to see on the television, or qpad, or cell phone. And God help me, if a front page story about some reality star gets them to pick up a paper, and maybe stumble on real news...”

And actually his editor is incorrect! You do not need to give people what they want. Kind of. “Giving people what they want” can be devious and condescending, and people see right through that sort of thing, which is why the hashtag “horsesandbayonets” is not still trending on Twitter.

Yes it’s true that if you somehow imply that there will be topless photos in the thing your reader is about to see, your reader seldom objects. “Disperse those nudes! I wanted to hear about the economic situation in Djibouti!” is not a phrase you are ever likely to hear, no matter how interesting the economic situation there becomes. I am not saying that Clark is wrong about what News Should Be. But do they not allow Clark to view his own stats?

Still, as Alexis Madrigal points out at the Atlantic, the lion’s share of traffic is not from gimmicky things like search engine optimization and headline-goosing. It is from “dark social” — people who email stories to their friends simply because they think the stories have something interesting to say.

Say something interesting? This is harder than it sounds. But hey, maybe Superman can do it.

Also, you know your industry has problems when a comic book creator decides that it is too unrealistic for his character to have a paying job in the newspaper business. Someone actually looked at the Superman strip and had the following thought: “Well, Clark Kent is a benevolent Kryptonian who has x-ray vision and can fly, but what strains our readers’ credulity is the part where he has a paying newspaper job at the Daily Planet. Readers like realism.”

Ouch, DC Comics. Ouch.

By  |  05:06 PM ET, 10/23/2012

 
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