SXSW13: The East Coast vs West Coast media battle
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SXSW13: The East Coast vs West Coast media battle

Aarti Shah

Journalists from both US coasts appeared on a panel this weekend to consider why so few -- if any -- West Coast journalists go beyond “provincialism” and become a voice for the nation. Here’s how it broke down. The panelists debated whether New York is still the world’s  (yes, the world's) cultural center. Ultimately, this led to everyone agreeing that Los Angeles produces what we consume, SF builds the platforms that we consume this content on, and finally, New York funds the product (and in some cases the platform). And, of course, DC owns politics. This is a very neat breakdown that doesn’t hold up under too much scrutiny. But these paradigms are convenient, especially on panels with limited time and scope. Beyond that, the panel, which included Wired editor Adam Rogers and Politico reporter Dylan Byers, argued— with the notable exceptions of entertainment and tech — the West Coast isn’t producing great journalism. In fact, it’s too busy celebrating the awesomeness of the West. Even tech media, they said, does this by constantly reminding the nation how innovative and creative the West is. Sure, the tech pubs have a bent that way. But other pubs, like Grantland or Marketplace, just tell good stories. So, this brought the discussion to whether the West Coast is misrepresenting its journalistic prowess or is the East Coast just misunderstanding it. Nicole Allan, senior editor for The Atlantic, maintained the West Coast needs to make a better argument for why it matters for more than just tech and Hollywood. But does it? Already, California’s political moves make national headlines. From a PR perspective, I thought of the numerous agencies with California roots -- OutCast, Access, Horn --- that eventually expanded East. I understand this was partly driven by the start-up activity in New York. But even so, assuming clients still consider media relations the top PR objective, was the move East necessary to be closer to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal’s editors -- and not just their tech outposts? After all, most companies, if they mature to a certain point, look to expand their media coverage beyond the usual tech suspects to broader business stories. What stayed with me though, was how worn and US-centric this entire conversation felt. If the East Coast is ignoring the news out of the West Coast, they do so at their own peril. The impact of technology on the cultural fabric of the nation goes beyond a niche segment, so I expected the nearly unequivocal acceptance of New York as the cultural capital to be more sharply contested. Or as someone in the audience pointed out, here we were debating the influence of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco gathered at one of the world’s most innovative and influential conferences located in Texas. And let’s not even mention London or...
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