Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I read the news today, o boy: surveying the Fourth Estate so it can be auctioned off at a bankruptcy sale & God save the Queen

It was one of those perfect autumn days, where the sweat trickled slightly beneath my Paul McCartney conquers Nashville T-shirt and there was a skip in my step. Or was that a stumble?
Doesn’t matter. At 59, at least I’m glad I’m not drooling. Hold it, let me wipe my lip.
So, I was in a good mood, which is probably my excuse. You see I didn’t tell all the aspiring journalists that the news business, a calling for me, is dead.
Oh, I know it will continue to function in some manner and I’m glad to share my wisdom now before being relegated to “relic” status.
Well, truth-be-told, Korporate Journalism already bestowed me that honor. I wouldn’t back down from my own nicotine-stained newsroom ethics. Seems they didn’t translate well in the age of “information centers,” where back-stabbers play king of the mountain till they are heaved onto the rag pile.
On this happy day, though, I’d been talking with some aspiring journalists about the tools of the trade: how to interview, how to interact, how to get good quotes, how to spell names correctly, how to always tell the truth, how to provide the most-important information to the public.
These are not necessarily things deemed important these days, but perhaps this younger generation will find a way to incorporate these basic tools into the age when the latest news will flash on the back end of the person walking in front of you, or however it will end up working.
I suppose it’s sad, for a guy who is striving to feed his family and the like, that I am so passionate about this truth and accuracy thing. That coupled with belief that journalists are serving the public … I’m not just a relic: I’m a dinosaur.
Surely, the journalists know what is important to the readers, the American Public, citizens of what I like to call – at least during my happy days – The Greatest Nation On Earth That Still Does Not Believe Health Care and Education are Rights. Yes, there are major flaws here.
Oh, I’m a proud U.S. citizen. My grandparents came through Ellis, and disappeared with Vito and the rest into Little Italy before eventually moving to Buffalo where Grandpa Ghianni worked on the railroad, all the livelong day.
And I firmly believe in the Fourth Estate, that the news organizations present the important material, educating and enlightening the public. However, I’ve been told that the Fourth Estate was sold at auction by bean-counters, trend-spotters and the leeches that run American business, industry, the government and the War Machine. Speaking of which, one day, back when I was a student at Iowa State university, some great philosopher once told me: ”I don’t need your war machines I don’t need your ghetto scenes ….”
OK, colored lights may hypnotize, but you know when I was speaking to the young people I found them both encouraged and encouraging. They were attentive and delightful. They wanted to know the little tricks. They wanted to talk about stories. I can’t remember when I was their age. I mean, I really can’t. Perhaps it is because of that concussion from the T-boner last July 4. Perhaps it was that night backstage with Vanilla Fudge back in 1970. More likely it is age.
Anyway, the day was good and fruitful. And, as is my habit when I get home from anywhere, I first look at the local newspaper web site and then at the television station web sites, scoping out the news, trying to glean just what is important, like, for example is it time to finally build one of those tornado and bomb shelters in the garage floor?
That’s the big commercial these days on the news. Meteorologists can’t yet frighten us with the blizzards – I think my old comrades Jocko and Capt. Kirk are breaking out the sled dogs up in Iowa as I write this – but down here in Nashville, it’s still tornado season.
Oh yeah, it’s also flood season here. Always is, especially when the Corps of Engineers closes up shop and refuses to answer the phone during the height of the 500-year flood. Thanks for your diligence guys. Maybe you should go over and help North Korea with its infrastructure problems. Hey, there’s another reason to build one of those sub-garage-floor bomb and tornado shelters… Thanks Commander Sick or whatever your name is, you crazy bastard.
By the way, when you watch those tornado and bomb shelter commercials, do you wonder the same thing I wonder: These little shelters are dug into the garage floor, beneath where you park your car. Unless you always park outside, that means the first thing you have to do when North Korean artillery starts shelling the suburbs or a tornado spins down the street is unlock those garage door – warped from that aforementioned floodwater -- and back the 1985 Saab out into the driveway while two-by-fours, bricks and bicycle and body parts zip past your head?
Back to the news. There was nothing really new on the sites, so I climbed from my little Fortress of Solitude, Da Office, The Flap Cave, Champo’s HQ to the living room and turned on the television.
Time to watch Brian Williams or (name your favorite anchor here, but remember Walter Cronkite is Dead and Dan Rather is still asking Kenneth about the frequency.)
But I really don’t watch just one channel. I am a clicker fellow, beginning with the local news and running through the national and back into the local. (I have my local news favorites and they know who they are… in case they want to offer me work. )
Anyway, on both local and national news on that otherwise balmy day, I found out that a Tea Party princess was going to be competing for the championship “silver chalice” or whatever it’s called, on Dancing With the Stars. I’m not against that show, because I’ve never watched it. For all I know it is highbrow entertainment.
So this was the big news of that day, the stuff that would enlighten me. They were talking about Bristol Palin. I mean isn’t it enough that we have to put up with the constant stream of books her mom writes? Or actually, perhaps, hires people to write. (Dear Sarah: I’m apparently desperate. I think your politics are vile. But, well, how about, you know, hiring me to ghost-write the next tome, about how you are going to be president of the Greatest Country on Earth that During Your Administration Will Ban Health Care and Public Education?)
Already told my pal, The Big O, to start slipping some of the butter knives into his luggage each time he flies back to Chitown.
Course Sarah won’t miss the butter knives. She only uses them to gut polar bears and rally her following of semi-comatose old men, members of the Greatest Generation, her supporters, now known as “the Gang that Can’t Think Straight.”
Back to the news today, o boy, about a lucky man who made the grade...
Nah. That’s the wrong story.
The news outlets did mention that there were some GIs killed in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this is happening so often now that it’s just “filler copy.” You know, these guys are dead, with photos. No mention of the hopes and dreams that died fighting to save the warlords and their poppy fields from the maniac who serves as president. My friend the Big O told me that “Karzai” means “Crazy” in the strange language they speak over there, English that is learned in England and translated in a boiler room in Bangladesh.
Speaking of England: Do you really care to have a daily update on the pending nuptials of the prince and his shack honey? I mean they seem like nice kids and they will do well. But, I don’t really care. (Prince Bill: Send me an invitation. I think you need to have me work for you and make sure the story is told without any sort of self-serving liberal slant.)
Love grandma, by the way. As John, Paul, George and Ringo once told me: “Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl but she doesn’t have a lot to say.”
She should work in the news business.


  1. We now have media commentators instead of news reporters! And don't even get me started on sensationalism in the media.

  2. The whole world is in growing pains. There's a technology and information revolution, and nobody knows how to deal with it. Let's just hope that we land on our feet.