Published: Sunday, April 6, 2008
Updated: Sunday, February 22, 2009 13:02
I am locked out of my own story, literally. I am supposed to be covering Zumba, some new dancercise program, for the Reporter, but I got to the Hollis Center a minute too late and the class has already started. I'm forced to stand out in the hall by myself and look through the wall-to-ceiling glass mirrors, staring at the (mostly) attractive girls shaking their hips aggressively to the salsa music. I watch this for a while until a pair of old men, probably alumni, walk down from the other end of the hall and give me a weird look for ogling these girls. "I'm a journalist!" I want to yell back at them but I'm afraid that might be even creepier, so I go home.
Not that I actually need to be present to write this piece; there isn't much insightful you can say about Zumba, or any other exercise fad. Stories like this pretty much write themselves. Open with a line about the "new craze sweeping across campus!" Give the reader a few vague facts about The Fad. Get a quote from a vapid but somewhat good-looking sorority girl saying, "The Fad is fun AND good for you!" Talk to someone in Health Services about the health benefits of The Fad. Pick up your paycheck from the newspaper office.
The question shouldn't be "What is Zumba?" but "Why the fuck I am writing about Zumba?" Zumba is nothing more than dancing to Latin music for extended periods of time. "‘News' is," according to the best definition I've ever heard of it, "a change in the status quo." People have always been dancing to Latin music and will presumably do so indefinitely: dancing to Latin music is not news. Dancercise movements like this pop up three times a month, and they're usually scams (and, sure enough, even my cursory research shows that the Zumba website has for sale $75 "Zumba Pants," which appear to be nothing more than regular sweatpants with the Zumba logo on them). For a human interest story, it's not even interesting, unless you were aroused by the descriptions of girls shaking their asses in the first paragraph.
"The reason you're writing about Zumba," the people at the Reporter who assigned me this story would invariably say, "is that it's human interest. People want to be up on what's happening on campus. The paper can't be all negative news or people wouldn't read it."
So you end up with articles about Zumba and the campus martial arts program and God knows how many other irrelevant campus clubs and events. You, Reader, want light fluff. You can't handle the truth. This is why the Reporter gives you articles about Zumba instead of articles about how Stetson is hemorraging tuition dollars and can't afford to hire any new professors. This is why the national media gives you stories about Britney Spears instead of stories about the proposed immunity for telecom companies that supported the White House's illegal wiretapping. This is journalism.
Editor's note: Ornery writer will be in attendance at an upcoming Zumba class to really experience this "new craze sweeping across campus."