July 30th, 2006

The horror, the horror – a world without editing

Last night I watched Apocalypse Now – Redux (Coppola’s extended director’s cut – 195mins, with 49 mins of extra footage compared to the 1979 original). And it reminded me of the vital role of editing in modern media. What was always a bit of sprawling film, allbeit a gripping and surreal sprawl, had become bloated, indulgent and, frankly, quite annoying. Add 49 minutes and subtract value.

On the subject of editing, one of the silliest currently-fashionable theories is that bloggers, user-generated content, and the thousand blooming flowers of citizen journalism will dislodge the old TV and press hegemony over news and news values.

I see it more like natural selection… new media forms proliferate and mutate, some replicate and consolidate as they gain popularity – perhaps attracting resources and spreading through the media eco-system. But most will fail to catch on as, er… no-one is interested and the work is banal – ie. there is very strong selection pressure, based on people not wishing to waste their time. The flip side of that is that for the media outlets that do triumph there may be a ‘winner takes all’ thing to play for. Political muckspreader Guido Fawkes may have achieved this with his blog – showing a recent huge surge of popularity – but he’s probably the only one in Britain to rival any mainstream outlet (well, that I know of).

Editing, and its close relation quality, is about survival fitness in the media jungle, driven by a contest for audience time between thousands (and potentially millions) of media outlets. For the most part, the established outlets do editing well and the bloggers etc do it very badly indeed. Take this ramble, for example.

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