Andy Rooney is signing off on Sunday, Oct. 2, after a 62-year career best defined by his acerbic, program-punctuating commentary on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” He was to the last several generations of Americans what H. L. Mencken was to the previous several: our curmudgeon-in-chief.
What seems most noteworthy about the end of Rooney’s run is not that his style of journalism has become outdated or out of touch; to the contrary, it’s the zeitgeist. Rooney is now high fashion. It is estimated that today some 156 million bloggers are in various ways asking the world, “You know what really ticks me off?” (including the homonymous Jennifer Rooney, editor of this blog; no relation to Andy, I am told).
Was Rooney a crank? Andy, that is. Sure. Did he annoy people? Undoubtedly. But could he have remained in place near the stage’s left exit of America’s longest-running news program had he been incoherent, irrelevant or uninteresting? Never. Rooney was content personified, and he rocked.
And he showed us how it’s done.
When he began his life 92 years ago, a person would have had to have access to very substantial capital, or the distribution of someone else who did, to be able to share a point of view as broadly as he has done during his lifetime. Today, virtually no capital, save intellectual property, is required to put an opinion in play.
But the strength of an opinion is weighed on no different a scale. Is it relevant? Is it well argued? Is it coherent? Does it provoke one to think or, more importantly, do?
Fully disclosing that we’re in partnership with Forbes, I nevertheless express objective enthusiasm for the model of “Social Journalism” it is here advancing. The opinions expressed by the hundreds of Forbes contributors are metered. An aristocracy of relevance rules. Thinking expressed in the clearest, most provocative, most interesting, relevant and engaging manner is afforded a bigger stage as it gains second by second what we used to call “audience.” The compositions of the newsmaker, or even the advertiser, rise or fall on their own relevance.
Andy Rooney found an otherwise limited seat in mass media six decades ago and held it with years of good writing and engaging presentation. The media seating today is virtually unlimited.
Can you keep a seat at the table?
by Rick Segal
President Worldwide and Chief Practice Officer
Follow Rick on Twitter @MrBtoB
Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network