This time of year, a certain amount of cringe-worthy Valentine’s Day-related reporting is to be expected from practitioners of “service journalism.” (After all, the hundreds of Valentine-themed press releases that come up in a Google News search this week must find happy homes somewhere.)
But just because you know it’s coming, doesn’t make it any easier to stomach.
Take your typical network morning show exchange wherein the anchor plays dumb as the over-rehearsed shopping “expert” explains just how much money one must part with to prove one’s love. (Ann Curry Tuesday on NBC’s Today Show: “So it really has become a trend that people are not just giving Valentine’s Day gifts to their loved ones, I mean, their significant others, but also to their children as well?” Author/”expert” Robyn Spizman: “Children, co-workers, friends. It’s a great time to express an attitude of gratitude.” Curry: “Oy! I thought we got through with that at Christmas. But okay.” No, it’s not okay.)
Or, the segment in which the Expert In The Obvious informs the (again) know-nothing anchor What Not To Do on Valentine’s Day. (Rene Syler, of CBS’s Early Show, yesterday: “Is there anything men should not wear on Valentine’s Day?” Matt Trainor, senior editor, Cargo magazine: “Well, you never want to go with that kind of rock star, like showing chest hair, leather kind of look, you know?” Yes, we know.)
Or one can read in bafflement the rarified remembrances of the New York Times’ Alex “Critical Shopper” Kuczynski on a Valentine’s Day-inspired “chocoholic’s journey around Manhattan”: “I fell in love with the marron glaces, their succulent sweetness and lightly powdery texture inspiring childhood memories of South American ice creams and confections.” (No, we don’t know.)
It’s enough to make a reader seek refuge in the business section. Surely, we thought to ourselves, the business press — buttoned-up, be-khaki’d — would be free of such cloying claptrap.
How wrong we were.
Does anyone really need to know which Valentine’s gifts “the BusinessWeek editorial staff said would make their hearts beat faster”? And yet, after reminding readers not to “dis the source of your bliss,” BusinessWeek-ers “reveal their hearts’ desires,” including such items as a solar panel backpack, a high-efficiency wood stove, and a trip to Hong Kong to have custom-tailored suits made.
Lest you think BusinessWeek has a monopoly on questionable gift ideas, up pops “financial expert” Dave Ramsey Tuesday on CBS’ Early Show suggesting that viewers give their significant other a “love drawer” for Valentine’s Day — that is, put all of their important personal documents (wills, etc.) in one place so that in case they unexpectedly die everything is organized for their loved ones. This time anchor Rene Sylar actually expressed some skepticism, specifically at the wisdom of trying to pass off as a present the renaming of one’s file cabinet as a “love drawer”. (Sylar: “I want to ask you why you think that is an ideal Valentine’s Day gift?” Ramsey: “Well, it’s an ideal Valentine’s Day gift if you’re smart enough to put chocolates and roses with it.” Syler: “Thank you. A diamond at the bottom, I think.”)
Finally, you thought buying Valentine’s Day gifts for children and coworkers was a stretch? The Motley Fool on MSNBC.com suggests a gift for “your broker, market maker or Enron defense lawyer” — specifically, “a handful of quintessential Feb. 14 sweets — candy hearts — adorned with special finance-related sentiments.” Said “sentiments” range from corny Dad humor (“You speed up my ticker” and “Fannie Mae, but I won’t”) to entirely TMI (“I’ve got a gross domestic product” and “I’ve had problems with inflation.”) All 24 of these gems can be had under the headline, “Sweet Nothings For Wall Street.”
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.
Now that sounds like the business press we know!