Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whining is Good for What Ails Me

SAN DIEGO – This is a time-out column.

I have vowed to keep this column light and fun without political commentary or social critique.

I have maintained that vow except for one exception as I recall.

I also promised myself to avoid an annoying right of old timers. I have noticed folks my age or older view the good ole days through rose-colored glasses: life was harder but better, our ethics and values were above reproach, we were all wholesome, healthy, strong, and happy: all things were good back when.

Accompanying this selective memory is a demonization of today’s culture: people today don’t value hard work; everything is more complicated; paperwork is rampant; you can’t talk to a real person; politics is sordid (especially on the other side); everything costs too much; etc. It’s the “I used to walk ten miles to school barefoot in a snow storm” syndrome.

Two recent events in the Southwest corner drove me to declare this column time out. It’s my time to whine.

About two weeks ago, I retrieved the “San Diego Union-Tribune” from my lawn and found a completely new format.

Then last Wednesday, I watched television coverage of the hostage situation at the Discovery Channel’s headquarters in Maryland.

These two independent events sparked my ire.

* * *

Last year, the “Union-Tribune,” San Diego’s daily newspaper was sold to Platinum Equity, a business acquisition group with only one newspaper under its aegis. Platinum appears to believe less news can make more money.

I am an old school newspaper guy. J.B. Leftwich taught me and many others the fundamentals of good newspaper journalism.

Many of those fundamentals have disappeared. Costs and profit are now the drivers in owning a newspaper, not providing the best news. Fortunately, the “Democrat” and its cross-town rival, “The Wilson Post” have thus far fared well in providing the news.

This paper recently changed its format, but I haven’t discerned a decrease in news coverage. From the Southwest corner, news appears to have actually expanded a bit.

But the “Union-Tribune” has cut newsprint, decreased the width of the paper, subsequently reducing the font (type size) to unreadable without Superman vision.

For twenty years, the “Union Tribune” had one of the best sports sections in the country. Being on the left end of time zones, all scores were in the morning paper with summaries, and commentary on every major sporting event.

The new version has a brief summary of all sports in a quarter-page summary, coverage of the local teams, an attempt at humor, and a gossipy item on “sports and courts,” updates on criminal and judicial events relating to sports figures. This “UT” should receive a fifteen yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

I am amazed bean counters figure they can make more money by providing less product. The new “Union-Tribune” is an excellent example of this bizarre approach to journalism as a business.

* * *

But last week’s television saga of James Jae Lee pushed me beyond the pale.

On Wednesday, I turned on the television during lunch, and as usual channel surfed while I ate. I paused at CNN reporting on the Maryland hostage situation. My interest intensified as I learned Lee had lived in San Diego.

I wanted to learn more.

But CNN seemed intent on not providing facts, but assessing innuendo from bystanders,
boasting of their own opinions, and calling for opinions from so-called experts who didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. Mostly, they crowed about the superiority of their coverage, their reporters, and their commentators. It was a gossip-fest.

I tried to find more news on the situation. Fox, that silly disguise of strident conservatism, actually had some good information for a while, but then Neil Cavuto decided talking to Lee’s brother-in-law for a half hour was more important than what was actually happening in Maryland.

I searched for more news on the situation. There was none. For that matter, on more than 900 channels, there was no straight news.

After 90 minutes, I disgustedly turned off the television.

* * *

In the Southwest corner, real news in the media is declining toward extinction. It’s an endangered species.

Where are Ben Bradlee, Walter Cronkite, David Hall, and John Cameron Swazy when you need them?

My time out is over. See you next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment