Miner Chord

It’s not good to be the king. But it’s great to be a miner. The bears have (until recently) trampled Wall Street. G-Men are slapping cuffs on corporate crooks in dapper suits. Everywhere, the sons and daughters of privilege and power are taking serious hits.

Even Bob Pittman’s out of a job.

But it’s a bull market for the boys and girls in blue, the guys and gals in slickers riding red trucks, the dirt-stained stalwarts toiling in underground shafts. Now we hear there’s talk of a movie based on the nine freed miners in Pennsylvania.

Can a deal to put a swoosh on their hard hats be far behind?

What we have here is a co-mingling of several pop-culture trends, each of which has already reached that point of media ubiquity where it is less like news and more like a dull headache that won’t go away.

The media and advertisers have responded to Americans’ post-Sept. 11 need for heroes by elevating firemen and police officers to mythical status and saturating every conceivable communications vehicle with their images. Last month’s trapped miners saga was no different: suffocating coverage and a celebration of heroic efforts to liberate the workers.

As a special added attraction, there were endless moments of the media’s favorite pastime: self-congratulation, this time for finally doing to a story with a happy ending what it routinely does to tales of stabbings, shootings and abductions: ram it down our throats until we gag.

Like an English stew, it’s all thrown headfirst into the 24-hour news-as-entertainment cauldron without regard to taste, texture or, perish the thought, seasoning. Mixed with almost identical ad imagery and messaging, it rapidly dissolves what, if any, patience we have left.

People who get sweaty rather than wear suits (or pantsuits) to work have become the ultimate content marketing ploy. News, entertainment, advertising, whatever. Just trot ’em out and watch ’em grab eyeballs and sell stuff.

Except they’re not.

First of all, firemen and policemen are so overutilized, I can’t remember if the last image I had of these worthies was on cable, in prime time or in a TV spot, let alone who or what they were being used to promote. (Except for the Inglewood, Calif., police department. I have no trouble remembering them.)

More telling, perhaps: The week the media went underground to cover the miners story, ratings on cable news networks did not rise to the occasion, say my media agency friends. “It’s a heartwarming story, not a ratings spike,” said a bemused buyer when I asked for numbers.

Believe me, there’s nothing I like better than tweaking the rich and powerful. Authority and I are like Enron and ethics. But our communications channels are suffering from laborer overload.

What we have here, folks, is working-class clutter.

I say bring back the athlete spokespeople. Bring back the cele brity shoplifters. Let’s have more coverage of adulterous lawmakers. Let’s return to unctuous advertisements featuring people who are famous for being famous.

Long live the king.