It was announced this past weekend that Southeast Missouri State University is going to be investing in its Mass Media Department by leasing two long vacant floors of a downtown ex-bank building and creating the "Center for Excellence in Mass Media."
The department plans to move the offices of the campus newspaper, the television production studios, the student public relations agency and the student advertising creative services into the building. They will be in the heart of Cape Girardeau's "media row" -- right next door to the Southeast Missourian and creative services agency Rust Media, across from the River Radio organization and the CBS broadcast affiliate KFVS, and just up the hill from ad agency Red Letter Communications.
As a graduate of the department, I sincerely applaud the expansion. Mass Media is the eighth biggest department at the University, according to a report on the University's website, and it has been hovering between 400 and 500 majors for years with little investment from the University. This facility might just take it to the next level.
While I think aspiring to excellence is quite worthwhile in almost any endeavor, the sad fact is that only a tiny fraction of people working in mass media today have the ability or intestinal fortitude to ever achieve the lofty designation of "excellence."
For every person who wins a Pulitzer or an Emmy or a Peabody, there are a thousand media professionals just cranking out communication so they can pay the rent. For every Woodward and Bernstein, there are hundreds of Springers, cable pundits and bloggers who can't keep their opinions to themselves. For every Addy-winner, there are hundreds of unsung infomercials. And for every New York Times and Washington Post, there are truckloads of "shoppers," printed products with barely a lick of news and crammed with every advertisement the sales staff could possible sell for that particular edition.
So while the local University is going to set its sights on producing tomorrow's award-winning media professionals, I've decided that the unrecognized media masses have wallowed outside of the spotlight for far too long.
That is why I'm proud to announce the creation of The Center for Mass Mediaocrity, whose mission is to laud the average, the crass and the outright awful creations produced by purveyors of mass media.
Kudos to you, the graphic designer who has to figure out how to fit the photos, descriptions and prices of 127 items onto a single newspaper page and, per the customer, "make it look pretty."
My hat is off to the production staff who record the antics of some sales person who appears to be hopped up on a mixture of caffeine and various illicit uppers just so he can sell some AMAZING PRODUCT at two in the morning in the bottom third of the national television DMAs.
And I lift a glass to the person who created the billboard that sits 200 yards from the interstate, yet includes three different phone numbers for the business that is leasing it, along with its address, a slogan, the company logo, and a giant picture of the business owner's Pekinese which serves no actual advertising purpose beyond being "cute" and making his wife happy.
These are the types of media professionals that The Center for Mass Mediaocrity wishes to salute. Excellence always gets put on a pedestal, but spectacular crap never gets any acclaim. Well, that was the case until now.
However, since my center does not have the deep pockets of the local university, it will not be housed in as nice of a facility as what Southeast announced Friday night for the Mass Media department. At this point, the offices for The Center for Mass Mediaocrity are somewhat mobile, located in the back of a part-white, part-green, but mostly reddish-brown primer colored 1973 Ford F150 sporting a fifth-hand camper shell that isn't quite tall enough for most people to stand upright. I'll admit it is no Taj Mahal, but it's good enough until our KickStarter campaign brings in enough donations to buy the 1981 Winnebago I've been coveting on Craig's List.
No matter where The Center for Mass Mediaocrity calls home, I plan to keep the office down by the river next to the old bridge abutment, but it may show up from time to time parked in front of the new Center for Excellence in Mass Media on Broadway.
I feel it will be a reminder to the students using this new University space that superior cannot exist without inferior, and you can learn as much from the bad as you can from the good.