Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I'm as bad as anyone. A year ago already, we let our Des Moines Register subscription lapse, the first time we didn't get a newspaper in 36 years. But the Register's sinking revenues had reshaped it into a more regional newspaper, the front page features highlighting Polk County, not the state of Iowa. Out here in the hinterland, Des Moines city streets are a long way off. So we quit.

Last night Obama held a news conference in prime time, when I was in class, so I wondered what he said. Drudge leads with this, this morning: "Being Boring." That's his spin. HuffPost leads with "Toning it Down." That's hers. So what what did happen? I've got to read between the headlines.

Newspapers are dying like flies, but then the whole news enterprise is a mess. For newspapers, advertising revenue has fallen off a cliff and the internet is just too easy--and free. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

What's lost is trust. I've never been a big believer in the vaunted "objectivity" of news reporting, but news today is so married to entertainment that I trust very, very few. Keith Olberman, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, or Rachel Maddow--they're all spinners, and one tunes in for one reason alone: to hear what one wants to hear. Perhaps there never was any such thing as "straight news," but as more of us get more of our news from spinmeisters, the more uncivil we'll become. Or so it seems to me.

Congress is entertaining a bill which might help newspapers operate as non-profits. That's all fine, but freedom-loving Americans will likely never go back to a morning or evening paper we have to pay for, not when they (and me) can read what we want in the warm glow of our very own wide, flat screen. Look for more, not less, rancor, stalemates, more fist-a-cuff rhetoric--from both sides.

The world wide web, the medium that's carrying these digital symbols--these words--has altered our lives in so many ways that it may have already altered our character as a people. Down here in the basement is a digital fount of knowledge, facts, opinions--all of it at my fingertips. Choose the right keys, I can dredge bullshit all day. My fingers dance and buck- naked human beings in multiple numbers contort in physical positions so astounding they're rarely seen in gyms. With this machine, we all have a room of our own. We're citizens of our own worlds. We all can do what we want, read what we want, view what we want, and it's all free too.



sarah said...

That's why we only watch and support The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. After an hour of commercial-free in-depth news, I feel more knowledgeable and aware, and never manipulated or assaulted. I don't think I could stand news from any other source (except NPR).

By the way, how fun to see my mother-in-law in the photo below!

Gene said...

It is not as simple as that. I try to read the Press Journal at TC Palm and can only get some of the copy. I like to read Dr. Gott and other medical regular features and can not do so. Buy a newspaper and then go on line and try to read on line everything you find in the newspaper. Expect failure, not a passing grade.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

I like to listen to both sides of spin to try and get a bigger picture. If I've heard two different spins, I guess I feel I've gained. Pick a journalist from Rather to Lauer to Limbaugh--all of them get over-excited about a story that might not be completely true, NPR included. We believe the excitement. We only know what's possible to discover and I only know what part of the discovery you're willing to tell me. Gene is right though, newspapers have not run really great businesses either.