Can Good News Sell?
You’ll soon learn why the musical post today is the most classic jazz performance of Route 66 by the Nat “King” Cole Trio with the trumpet of Harry “Sweets” Edison — my favorite version of my favorite “road” song.
I hate to think how many years ago I pitched our local daily paper with an idea for a “Good News” section – an antidote to the remaining 95 percent of its content. It was during the former recession of the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. Given my own bad-news weariness and that of many of my friends and colleagues, it seemed to me that people were hungry for reminders that all was not wrong with the world. My idea was turned down flat by the then-publisher. “Good news doesn’t sell,” he said.
As we inch our way out of this latest – and deeper – recession, I’m once again craving some good news, especially after seeing this morning’s news including the inadequate ‘fix’ for the oil spill in the Gulf. But it seems that not much has changed in the commercial media and entertainment world when it comes to the projects they’re willing to get behind; the Susan Boyle story notwithstanding.
I just watched the pilot for a reality/documentary TV show that, unfortunately, you all may not get to see. There are details I won’t get into, but the main reason is that the subject matter is too positive for the subject matter. I’ll explain.
Last week I received an email from an Oklahoma man named Edward Winterhalder, a foremost authority on the Harley Davidson motorcycle lifestyle. Ed found me through my Twitter profile (listen up you skeptics on the value of Social Media for business). My profile states: PR Professional, Inbound Marketing Consultant – and two-up on a Harley Road Glide. The latter qualification refers to my weekend passion – riding behind the love of my life, Jeff Levine, a Viet Nam vet and talented psychotherapist/relationship counselor, on his Harley Davidson.
Ed was looking for communications representation for his six books (fiction & nonfiction) and TV concept Biker Chicz. He thought that because I ride, and live in his native Connecticut to boot, that I’d be a good fit. He was right in more ways than one. I’m also a fan of good news.
He’s already produced an earlier pilot, “Living on the Edge,” which he sent along with copies of the books to familiarize me with his work. Except for maybe his first book, everything else he’s created addresses the positive side of motorcycle clubs, something I understand well.
Google Ed and you’ll find about 142,000 references. Unfortunately, most of these focus more on his early motorcycle experience as a leader of the Bandidos outlaw motorcycle club (even though only a small percentage of the group qualify for ‘outlaw’ status.)
Today, Ed is a successful real estate developer, as well as author and TV producer. His books are sold around the world, translated into a number of languages by his publishers abroad. The guy is a talented voice for the millions of solid citizens around the world – including my love and me – who come alive on a bike.
Not only do they love the ride, but they’re a generous group, raising millions of dollars annually for good causes too numerous to mention and just doing meaningful deeds. For example, Jeff rode with the Nam Knights motorcycle club here in the New York area to escort a badly-injured Iraq war veteran from a local re-hab hospital to his home way in upstate New York – a tangible tribute to honor his service and sacrifice.
Yesterday morning, we watched the DVD of Ed’s first TV pilot, “Living on the Edge.” The concept: Each episode follows the members of a motorcycle club somewhere in America, examining the causes they embrace and the good they accomplish. It delves into the lives of members and introduces us to their families and friends.
If you went by looks alone, you’d never guess that cast members in the pilot range from a UPS driver, to a project manager for a high-end residential developer, to a man who repairs communications antennae on towers, including atop the Empire State Building after 9-11 — 1000 feet off the ground. Included in each episode’s cast is a bike-riding corporate exec who gets the opportunity to immerse in the lifestyle of the group.
It was an engaging viewing experience, for sure. Yet the pilot is languishing in Hollywood, despite the fact that Winterhalder is well regarded there. Why? Entertainment executives are convinced that the viewing public would much rather watch motorcycle gang violence than the positive side of the Harley Davidson lifestyle.
That’s one more item to chalk up in the bad news category, but personally, I’d rather buy the good news. Anyone with me on this?