For those of you born after 1930, there once was a time when, if you wanted to learn about what happened in the world today, you had to wait until tomorrow morning, and go a buy a newspaper. Then the companies that produced this item started delivering to your front door, saving you a trip to the newsstand, but still requiring you to wait overnight. Now, news over the radio and on T.V. cut into this monopoly a bit, but not terribly, as the time constraints didn’t allow nearly for the comprehensive content. I once saw a study where someone took a transcript of a network nightly newscast and laid it out, newspaper-style. It failed to fill one page. So, newspapers still hung in there.
Until Ted Stevens invented a series of tubes, called the internet. Suddenly (actually it took several years, but you get the idea), allllll that information was either available for free via a computer, or about to be. The owners of newspaper companies, worried they would get shut out by new online organizations, started putting their content on the web for free. Yet, they never changed their business model. They still assumed people would subscribe to the print version and anticipated selling ads based on that circulation. They saw the rise of Ebay and Craigslist and never thought that the classified-ad-buying public would figure that paying a few dollars to have their products available for millions of people is more economical than paying ten times that (or more) to have them available to, say, 50,000 or 100,000 people in a limited geographical region.
And, now, they stand before you today, confused about the demise of their industry and hilariously using up valuable column inches griping about it. Let’s make sure I understand their point: newspaper companies expect me to pay them money to get something tomorrow I can already get today for free. And they don’t understand why I chose not to.
They also don’t understand how irritatingly pompous they are about their craft. “Journalism,” they call it. Uh, for the most part, they talk to people and repeat what they said. Or watch things happen, and then describe them. They act as if they have answered some kind of calling, but in reality are working in a field that doesn’t require any kind of certification or membership in anything other than a labor union. You want to be treated like doctors, lawyers or CPAs? How about having a mandatory code of ethics—with penalties for those who don’t follow it—and perhaps a proficiency exam to pass before you can practice.
Also, stop insulting our intelligence by pretending you are all free of any bias, pure purveyors of the ultimate truth. No. All newspapers are biased. Some toward the political left, others toward the political right. Some toward rural concerns, others toward urban concerns. And on, and on and on. Why? Because they each need to tell their readerships what their readerships are interested in and what they want to hear. Are the Triangle newspapers biased toward UNC? YES!!!! Because there are far more UNC fans in the area than there are Duke fans. Is this unfair? No. Being pro-Duke in the Triangle would make as much sense as trying to open a burger restaurant in India. Frankly, I would welcome newspapers putting their political bias right there on the front page, so I know what I am getting.
Then there are the little things. A reporter interviews someone and has to sprinkle that amazing act throughout his/her copy. “In an interview, U.S. Sen. Sam Shmedlow (I-Dukies) said he was leaning toward voting against the nomination.” Really? In an interview? He didn’t say it in his sleep while you sat by with your notepad? “Shmedlow, in the interview, added that he believed the president’s staff had mishandled the situation.” Enough.
And lately, the major outlets have started qualifying the reasons an individual is speaking anonymously. Such as:
1- “According to a campaign staff member, who was granted anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.”
2- “According to a political consultant, who requested anonymity he is not affiliated with the candidate.”
3- “According to a White House staffer, who requested her name be withheld due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.”
B.S. There is one simple reason people ask for their name not to be in the newspaper. Because they don’t want their name to be in the newspaper. So, how about being candid about their motives, huh? Having been on both sides of the reporter/source equations, here’s my translation of the previous three examples:
1- “According to a campaign staff member, who is really some schlub that puts those signs up on median strips but thinks he overheard something while bringing the mid-level staff coffee the other day.”
2- “According to a political consultant, who is totally making this s**t up and doesn’t want to get a bunch of mocking phone calls and emails from his colleagues when his prediction turns out to be 100 percent wrong.”
3- “According to a White House staffer, who is pissed that her idea was shot down in a meeting with the senior staff and wants to be able to say, ‘I told you so,’ on the very rare chance she was right, but would get her ass handed to her if she was caught selling out her colleagues.”
I could go on and on. Any of you who are familiar with A.P. Style will notice I follow it, simply because it is ingrained in me. But it was clearly developed by individuals who had serious OCD issues. You abbreviate N.C. but not Utah. If you are using a month and a day and a year, you write Jan. 15, 2008. If you are writing a month and a year, it’s January 2008. The rules for what gets capitalized in a headline and what doesn’t could take several hundred words to describe. And for some reason, “Internet” is a proper noun.
All of which is to say… You know how Wile E. Coyote would run off the edge of a cliff and didn’t realize he was about to fall until he looked down? The newspaper industry has been in that spot for decades.
Fortunately, legions of morons are already filling the void, many armed with photo-editing software they only feel like using part of the time. If you liked them last week, you’ll like them again. If not …
The New Dell Studio XPS Desktop: Now Featuring a Warp Drive
This is what happens when you leave your computer monitor in the car on a really hot day.
Uh, I’m Here for the Photoshoot. Why is there a Surgical Team? (look at the picture on the left)
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: She looks fat.
PHOTOEDITOR: She almost blew away when we turned on the air conditioner.
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Make her look lighter. Take a chunk out of her right ribcage.
PHOTOEDITOR: Even though she’ll come out completely unsymmetrical?
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Yeah, so what? Then trim up her arms.
PHOTOEDITOR: Both photos?
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: No, just the one on the left.
PHOTOEDITOR: Even though they’re running next to each other and the differences will be obvious even to a doofus who writes for a Duke Basketball website?
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Well, I doubt that. But, just for fun, make her right forearm bigger than her upper arm. These guys have space to fill all summer.
Okay, this one is hard to spot, so read the text below first. And you might have to click the “skip this ad” button.
Breaking News from Variety Magazine: Moon Bloodgood fires her agent after he is only able to negotiate a shadow for her right leg but no other part of her body.
BONUS VIDEO SEGMENT!!!!!!!
If you’ve ever watched a cooking show, you’re familiar with the swap-out. Julia Child or Alton Brown puts a roast in the oven and then tells you to cook it for two hours. Now, turning off the cameras and waiting for it to finish means paying an expensive film crew to do nothing. And, since many shows are live-to-tape, even if there was a budget for this GM-style waste, it wouldn’t work. To get around this problem, there is another roast (or cake) already done and ready to present as soon as the first on goes it. This even applies to simpler tasks, such as sautéing onions, as watching someone stir for five minutes makes for dull television views.
So, we’re cool with that, right? Even though it also has the side-benefit of allowing the producers of the show to make a whole bunch of the food and pick the best looking one for final presentation. But we like to pretend that maybe, somehow, we witnessed real cooking.
Until now. The following is a video from the Williams Sonoma webpage (scroll down a little and look to the left). This isn’t so much instructional as it is a demo for a product you can use to cook a pizza on the grill. I’m not sure why you need to shell out a C-note for this thing, rather than just plopping a $25 oven-style pizza stone in your grill. This pricy item sits, for some reason, on top of a metal stand which has a thermometer inserted in it. Also, for an unknown reason, as most high-end gas grills, such as the one featured in this video, already have thermometers. But, hey, let’s play along. And play the video up to the 25-second mark, where our host says “and as you can see, it’s heated up to over 700 degrees.”
(Oh, you actually like the extremely, knee-slappingly clever titles I give the links? Okay, here you go: MEDIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Did you see that? SHE TOUCHED IT! Swiped her finger, which was NOT covered by a welding glove around the thermometer on what she claimed was a 700 degree item. Now, it’s bad enough the pizza went onto this lava-hot stone without the slightest hiss or crackle, but does she have to make it obvious the grill isn’t even on by caressing the supposedly 700 degree stone like she’s a model at a car show?
COMING NEXT WEEK: We prove the NASA shuttle program is a fraud using video of astronauts repairing the Hubble telescope without wearing helmets. Or we could if American ad firms were in charge of the subterfuge.