Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Paradigm of Dumbness

"Journalism is printing something that someone else doesn't want printed. Everything else is public relations." -H.L. Mencken

Years ago, when I took the subway (in Philly we call it, "the El") into Center City for my summer job, I chose a daily copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer to pass the time on the 25 minute ride. It became an essential part of my morning. It was, is, and always will be a great and perhaps the greatest newspaper in the world. But it was the writings of one of their best journalists at the time, one John Grogan, who got me hooked. For the many of you who don't know, he's writer of the  the book Marley and Me, and he's played by Owen Wilson in the movie. Long before the movie, though, he had an editorial column in the Inquirer, and in it he did wonders for Philly, from exposing an arrogant and deplorable plot by Pennsylvania politicians to vote in their own pay raise, literally in the dead of night so the public wouldn't even know, to incessantly writing on the horrific gun violence that gripped the city in the Mid-2000s. In both cases, Grogan was not only able to bring relevant issues onto center stage for the otherwise clueless public to see, but he was also able to affect policy. His thoughtful, meticulous, and honest journalism was able to inform a society. And that is the role that a free press in a free society plays.

After moving to CT, the newspaper, at least in its physical paper form has eluded me. But I still crave it just as much, so I settle for the Washington Post, as well as New Haven and Hartford local online newspapers. And you better believe I still keep up with my old hometown via The other day, however, when I logged on to the Washington Post, something happened that I wasn't expecting. I had clicked on an article, and was redirected to a site that said I'd need a paid subscription to read it. I went back and clicked on another article, and another. They all said the same thing. I got extremely angry. How could I possibly get through a half hour bike ride at the gym without the Post editorial page to read on my smart phone!? And the nerve! How dare they charge.....for a service they provide, a service that happens to be honest journalism informing a democracy.....a service that has been totally free for years now online. My heart and mind quickly changed, and I decided to purchase an online subscription.

It wasn't easy choosing to pay for something that before was always free. Yet is this not one of the contributing factors to the decline of real journalism? Definitely one factor, at least. Another big one, being the proliferation of 24/7 Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, etc which makes Americans regard a newspaper or even a Yahoo AP headline as snail mail. Americans want sensationalism, and they want it fast.

And we are ALL dumber for it.

Call me old school, nostalgic, or stubborn, but I don't trust a news story that takes less than 24 hours to break.

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