The Fourth Estate is a fickle beast. One never knows which spark of a story may become a firestorm of worldwide notice pushed by a 200mph media wind.Take the venerable Santa Monica Pier. Here are three pier stories that could have gone worldwide. Last July 19 the pier’s GLOW inaugural one-night arts festival drew an estimated 200,000 revelers, perhaps one of the largest all-night art festivals in the history of the world! Here’s another pier story: on February 18, plans were announced for the pier’s 100th birthday – on the curious date of 9-9-09. The months-long centennial celebration honors what is billed as “the last pleasure pier on the West Coast,” a California icon that has been the location of many movie shoots and is, in fact, the western terminus of the worldwide famous Route 66. And then a week ago last Tuesday, a one pound two-spotted female octopus disconnected a hose and flooded the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.So which story bumped worldwide? There was barely a media whisper about the GLOW festival. The pier’s upcoming centennial was pretty much ignored by the media. So if you have not heard by now, it was the octopus story that had the strongest media “legs.” The Associated Press broke the story, and not only did it appear alongside Obama economic news on my Yahoo homepage, the in-laws in upstate New York were asking about the octopus on our most recent Skype session.I have noticed that aquarium, zoo, and museum mishaps seem to capture an undue level of attention, suggesting that our pier’s octopus was a story just waiting to happen. I recall an incident at the California Museum of Science and Industry (now the California Science Center) nearly three decades ago. Technicians were hanging a one-of-a-kind NASA lifting body space vehicle artifact from the ceiling of the Aerospace Wing. They dropped it and it broke. It was a Big Story picked up by major dailies nationwide.Likewise, last month marked the 20th anniversary of one of the more bizarre, and widely reported, museum crimes of Southern California history. In January of 1989, surf music legend Dick Dale’s first guitar was stolen from the Surf Museum in Huntington Beach. The surf community was outraged. The story had a happy ending. The guitar was eventually returned to the museum where it is on display this very day.What offbeat museum story will be next in the media’s crosshairs? Long-time friend, and retired college professor Jerry Fecht is spearheading a serious effort to launch a new museum a little to the north of our burg-by-the-bay. It is a project that I suspect may draw satirical ink from some AP or other reporter, and rekindle names that have faded, names such as Moon Zappa and Allan Sherman. Fecht and friends plan to open the Museum of the San Fernando Valley.
Second Guessing the Fourth Estate:
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