Friday, May 15, 2015

Prom in the News

I wrote yesterday about high school proms and how they have evolved over the years.

As they have done so, advertising for prom products has increased and news outlets have taken notice of money spent on gowns, tuxedo rentals, hair styling, makeup, wrist corsages, catered dinners, police escorts, limousines, photography and much more.  

Proms may last only a few hours, but high school students and their parents devote much attention to preparing for these events.  

And news organizations have followed along, deciding that "prom" is newsworthy.  

I can see a couple reasons why.  Sending a newspaper photographer to a prom can generate enough material to fill a whole page with photos.  This is much more efficient than sending a reporter out to research and report a story on, say, school funding that may only fill 10 or 12 column inches. Plus, every parent whose kid appears in a prom photo layout will buy 10 or 20 actual print copies of the newspaper to send to grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Win win.

So, from a Florida paper, we have a picture of girls doing some pre-prom vamping.

In another state, this important question became news fodder:  "Wedding dress or prom dress?  White gowns take over Michigan proms."

No doubt you have noticed similar prom photos and discussions, assuming you pay attention to local news in a print, television or online format.

New Jersey

In my state, we have a news collective (or something like that) that pools resources to share reporting among the major newspapers.  A state like mine needs all the serious reporting it can get.

But the state news group,, has devoted increasing attention to proms -- prom photos, prom dress sales, promposals -- the whole shebang   Prom prom prom.

This year, seems to have deployed several people to cover high school proms.  

In addition to published or posted photos from seemingly every high school prom, we are getting fun features like these:
 -- "15 songs every teen will hear at Prom 15."

 -- An invitation to high school students to discuss the "meaning of prom" online.

    Some of the answers:  
     1) "Prom has become such a strong tradition because people want to dress up 
      for a night and party with their friends."

     2) "Prom is a magnificent night that boosts teens' confidence.  Prom is worth going
      to because it brings a student body together."

     3) "I think that it's so popular nation-wide because it gives students more freedom
      to express themselves and show off."

(These comments, from not-quite full-grown adults, illustrate why sports reporters have such a difficult time gathering thoughtful quotes from high school athletes -- or Floyd Mayweather, for that matter. Growing up is a long process.)

 -- A weekly selection of photographs of prom couples and an invitation to "Upvote the looks you like best."  Here is the latest week's report.

Apparently 3,000 people visited the website, examined the photos and voted last week.  

A week or two earlier, only 1,750 voters had participated.  The process generates more attention as it continues.  As attention increases, so does the outsize influence of prom.  

It is clear why this is happening.  Newspapers and their websites are leaking readership and credibility at an ever-increasing rate.  They crave young news consumers.  If covering prom is the way to attract them, by golly, prom will get coverage.

A Question

Sometimes I wonder if a "prom bubble" is beginning to inflate in American cities and towns.  Can any four-hour event live up to this amount of hype?  We'll see.

Meantime, here are some news photos from proms across America this year.  All the young people seem to be enjoying themselves, and I certainly wish them well.  

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