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What journalism can learn from the new ‘Star Trek’

March 7, 2009

I’ve watched the new “Star Trek” trailer about 500 times already. To say I’m excited would be an understatement — as I explained to my fianceé last night: “Imagine your favorite TV show of all time getting made into a movie by the guys who make ‘Lost.'”

Nevertheless, there are plenty of doubters who are convinced this movie is blasphemy and are openly hoping it fails. That’s bound to crop up because this new film isn’t a sequel so much as a remake/overhaul. Which, to me, makes it a lot like what journalism is going through right now.

Journalism, like Trek, was a cash cow for a long time and for the most part everybody loved it. Then in the late ’90s to early-2000’s, it started losing its luster. Fast. Newer, more exciting things cropped up and people flocked to those while journalism and Trek just did what they’d always done.

Flash forward to 2009: Trek seems to have righted itself. While the movie has yet to come out, it’s generating a respectable amount of buzz and seems on track to become a legitimate blockbuster. Journalism is still struggling in its downswing.

So what can journalism learn from Trek? It’s OK to reinvent. It may be necessary to kick out the stewards of the concept if viewers find their ideas stale. At some point you have to say, “Due respect to everything that came before, but there are new rules now.” Most of all: Accept the fact that some people aren’t going to like the new product.

This post was inspired at least partially by a Jason Preston post that used James Bond to draw a few journalism parallels.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2009 4:33 pm

    It’s funny you did this, since I just SAW the movie and was thinking about doing a similar post ;)

    It’s true; reinvention is the name of the game at this point.

    Another thing news orgs could learn from the new Star Trek movie: you need to find a balance between logic (hard news) and passion (exciting news) to be truly remarkable.

  2. May 13, 2009 4:46 pm

    Another takeaway I see is that you should save a well know brand name if you can. Star Trek is more than an old TV show from the ’60s. It is a valuable brand name, just like the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, etc. It is important to pay homage to that which came before, while you pave the way for the new.

    Finally, just because the old ain’t working anymore, and the new is selling well, does not mean the new is automatically better. It only means the new is making more money. That is a business model, but not necessarily good journalism.

  3. May 13, 2009 8:15 pm

    Jason– I like that point.

    @teachj– I agree with you on the branding (I feel like I’ve blogged about it before, too, though I can’t find any record of it). If there’s one thing Old Media has going for it right now, it’s familiarity and history, both of which are really valuable (intangibly) and could be really valuable (financially).

    On the issue of “better”: we could debate that all day, and while it could be fun, it would ultimately be … illogical. ; )

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