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It’s Cool to be down on Popular Culture

And I mean down ON, not down WITH.

In the wake of the over-publicized payola scandal, a post from the Jacobs Media blog shows a reaction both calculated and characteristic from, of all people, a CNN News Anchor: “So that explains why music on the radio is so bad — they’re being paid to play the bad songs,” CNN’s Carol Costello reportedly said.

Let’s leave aside the notion that TV journalism has anything to do with investigative reporting and truth-telling (as CNN and its brethren long ago decided). What’s stunning to me about this comment is that it is certainly a common opinion.

The mass of radio listeners – and movie viewers, and TV watchers, and music listeners – are ever-ready to pounce on the providers of popular culture, largely due to our vicious effectiveness at being so popular.

How these folks cease to understand the idea of “popular” is a puzzle to me. So let me define it for them.

“Popular” is not what everybody likes. And it’s certainly not what YOU like. At any given time there will be things on the air, on TV, at the movies that you couldn’t care less for. This doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it NOT FOR YOU.

It is, of course, for SOMEONE otherwise the top of the charts wouldn’t contain the same songs radio is criticized for overplaying, the top of the box office wouldn’t contain the latest mindless summer blockbuster, and the top of the TV ratings wouldn’t contain so many flavors of Law and Order and CSI.

“Popular” is what most people like most of the time. Period.

Whether you are an average listener or a CNN anchor charged with the responsibility to know better, the radio is not your personal jukebox, the movies are not your home theater, and the TV is not your TiVo.

Get used to it. Get over it.

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