All the news that fits, we print
- Mark Twain in a letter 1899
In fact, Mr. Twain ran hot and cold on the papers of his day, depending on how pissed off he was at any particular time. He didn’t really want to bite the hand that gave him his start in the realm of words. At the same time he was distressed by the dreck that was pushed on an unsuspecting public on a daily basis.
I feel pretty much the same way. I have devoted much of my life to being a scribe and newspapers are very much part of who I am. The old timers used to say when I started that “newspapering gets in your blood,” and it surely does. At the same time I, like Twain (not for a moment suggesting I dwell in the same pantheon as he did) am often distressed and offended with what the papers have become.
I detest their pandering, I loathe their political correctness and refusal to waver from accepted, government prescribed party line – all papers were abominations during the Bush years – and their cheap tawdriness and flavor-of-the-moment catering in which they try to suggest, ‘Aren’t we trendy? Aren’t we hip?’
Let me suggest from my experience in the trade, daily papers are the antithesis of hip, and are invariably at least six months behind in virtually everything. They have to be. It keeps their advertisers satisfied and remember always that papers are first-and-foremost businesses and their primary obligation is not to you, the reader (because you are so insignificant to their bottom-line) but to the advertiser.
“Editorial content is the stuff that goes between the ads,” said old Lord Thomson of Fleet, and in that (cynical as it was) he was being honest.
So, I look at my weekend paper this morning – weekend papers are the worst in terms of crap content – and I am left disquieted. Nothing much there to cheer up any distressed soul.
The economic news is as depressing and distressing as it could be and you can see that we all are damned to an eternity of poverty. Nothing with a positive spin and the papers seem to have developed a fetish for assailing us with negativity on our tailspin into the abyss. That is so they can then write the headline (and accompanying story of sorts): ‘Consumer confidence loss hits the markets’ Uh –what else could it be?
Then there is the beginning of a series decrying the squalor of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. offered in a sort of fundamental style suggesting that nobody has heard of how bad it is.
Inside we find stories on the pending Olympics and stories on the pending Oscars. I cannot decide which one interests me less – Oscars or Olympics? Probably the Oscars interest me less only in the sense I will end up paying for the damn Olympics if they lose as much money as anybody with any common sense knows they will. Ask the residents of Montreal if you don’t believe me on that score.
Other pieces include a profile of a lacklustre UK singer named Lily Allen who is, I believe, better known for her alcohol fuelled shenanigans (a fine role model for young females, not that it matters since most young people either won’t or literally can’t read a newspaper, leaving one only to wonder why the article on Ms. Allen even exists in the paper since most people over 30 would have no interest in her whatsoever) than any musical styling prowess.
There is also a piece on very expensive sex toys for rich broads. Nothing like a bit of suggestiveness to take a body’s mind off the recession despite the fact the article – replete with pictures of the gadgets – is appearing in a family newspaper.
Good, now that I’ve vented that bit of spleen I feel much better about the world. A feeling that was enhanced by a fine walk in the sunshine on this late winter day, and to realize that the world of news garnering and purveying has changed very little since the day of Mark Twain.