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The News Fix
One year ago, Americans were only just beginning to understand the nature of the novel coronavirus and how it spreads. Public health officials were teaching us about “social distancing” and advising us to wash our hands and not touch our faces (though some had trouble following their own advice). It was still an open question whether or not the general public should wear protective face coverings, and the people in charge of America’s pandemic response often contradicted each other.
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Smart In a Shot
The media industry is reckoning with the ways it portrayed female celebrities in the pre-social media era. Recent documentaries about Whitney Houston and Britney Spears, along with Monica Lewinsky’s forthcoming film “15 Minutes of Shame,” are now attempting to recast the images of women — shaped largely by men — that defined popular culture in the 1990s and early 2000s. In the New York Times, writer Jessica Bennett describes “a litany” of female icons from that era whose misfortunes, in hindsight, implicate the scandal-driven media machine: Janet Jackson, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Brandy.
The NumbersPeople aren’t really gathering ‘round the television for big events like awards shows and playoff sports these days.
63%That’s how much viewership for Sunday’s Golden Globes award show declined from last year’s broadcast. Only 6.9 million viewers tuned in. Ratings for the NBA Finals, the NHL finals, the Kentucky Derby and the Super Bowl also plummeted during the pandemic.
5Streaming services have surged in popularity over the past year, and more than three-quarters of U.S. consumers subscribe to at least one, according to a recent survey. In fact, American subscribers now maintain an average of five streaming services — up from three last year.
$1 billionMedia companies are trying to find the sweet spot, bringing the most popular content to its biggest audience — and Amazon is about to make a big bet on sports. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the e-commerce giant might pay as much as $1 billion a year for the exclusive rights to stream the NFL’s Thursday night games on Prime Video. (It’s a bold move, given that Thursday games have been a money-loser for television networks in recent years.)
This week on the podcast
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What’s up with state budgets?“Make Me Smart” writer Erica Phillips (that’s me!) recommends this article in The New York Times, which examines how the COVID economy has affected state budgets. A year ago the forecasts were grim, but a $600-a-week federal boost to individual unemployment benefits helped states collect more in sales tax revenue — keeping many budgets around where they were before the pandemic.
“It can't be in vain”“Make Me Smart” producer Marissa Cabrera recommends this video from the Los Angeles Times about mariachis, whose work has shifted during the pandemic. Rather than playing parties and weddings, they’re performing more at funerals. “Clearly the pandemic has changed us,” says performer Maricela Martinez.
A bit of perspectiveListener George M. recommends the Australian comic strip “First Dog on the Moon,” a humorous take on the dysfunctional aspects of that country’s politics. “First Doggie's commentary proves that they're just as insane there as we are here,” George says. “It’s comforting to know that there are places on the planet that are just as weird.”