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September 13, 2010

Folding Newspapers: Pulp Fiction or Reality?

By Susie Duncan Sexton

Why newspapers are reducing the voices of the people to "American Idol" status is no mystery. SIMON Legree types dominate, comfortably yet precariously poised at the helm, kowtowing to whichever side provides the most revenue while encouraging on-lookers via sophomoric surveys to hoist thumbs up or down?  BTW, don't forget to pre-pay for your obituary.
 
Our currently raw wound of a divided country facilitates the selling of space to the most promising bidders who may be clutching their "30 pieces of silver" and top dollar lucrative offers in their fists. A facebook friend asked exactly when local papers stopped reporting local news and when journalists ceased being allowed to be journalists for fear of lawsuits or personal repercussions and when balanced public opinion got hushed.
 
I wrote what I considered to be my final letter to any editor posing those very questions last month, published in only two newspapers.  Covering the waterfront concerning why print media captivates so few now, I concluded that rather than exercising a moderate and fair stance, journalism has become opportunistic as it gasps its few terminal breaths while slouching toward unimpressed potential advertisers.
 
Prostitution has kicked in, with a vengeance.  Many papers allow letters to the editor and sometimes encourage them. However, instant feed-back via the inter-net, in the instances of some larger "rags" posted while hastening to keep pace, has degenerated this entire process into the damaging shout-fest atmosphere of a hate-filled talk-radio show.  Thinkers are not responding...extremist agendas are.
 
Feeling saddened that newspapers seemed to be experiencing death throes, I once wished to rush to their defense. Currently, I'll be delighted to attend their funeral services.  Hopefully, they'll be able to pay for their own obituaries, one of the final handful of reasons many of us ever bothered with messy inky newsprint in the first place, "obits" which are now unreliable cuz money talks and corpses cannot.
 
Of particular concern is this industry's self-professed "dumbing down", condescending to a supposedly salivating public considered too un-intelligent to appreciate nationally syndicated columnists or AP & UPI news services providing up to the minute current events information or balanced forums representing all political persuasions and philosophies sans bias.  These latter offerings would cost money, possibly decrease profits, and demand a work ethic other than laziness.
 
Duping the public by catering to the lowest common denominator, as pre-judged by winking out-of-town publishers, as well as slanting/spinning any news or special interest columns to appeal to a vocal, domineering few presently disappoint readers as duplicitous, deceptive behavior.
 
If this unfortunate state of affairs did not seem so irresponsible, self-serving, money-grubbing and frightening, it might be hilarious fodder for a Marx Brothers style movie.  However, the newsprint industry totters on the brink of failure and evidently will do anything to stay afloat, robbing US of our right to subscribe to the news we need to know, not simply want to know. That does not bode well for our country, and newspapers ought to be folded up, after all, and finally "put to bed". Without their supper.
 
If you're the sort to pray, then ask for this.  Good Lord, please assure "net neutrality" advocated by former "SNL" comedian, "Air America" host, and current deadly serious U. S. Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken.  He's not joking when he emphasizes to listening constituents that our system of fair and crucial reporting of information, which we all need to survive, is in serious jeopardy.  Print journalists have not risen to that occasion as they take greedy advantage of a paying public at a most critical moment in our nation's history.
 
Nighty night, Fourth Estate.  Don't let the bed-bugs bite.  Our future security exists and depends upon computer monitors where fair, globally oriented exchanges occur and all of us have voices to challenge those overbearing, self-serving, intimidating demands from brass knuckled moguls representing corporate America or from special interests or from institutions which enjoy tax-exempt status.  Hopefully, the party's over. We extend our sympathies, though, to those cute little newspaper carriers who pedaled around our neighborhoods and will always remain a quaint feature of our Norman Rockwell past, a time when commerce was simpler and still motivated by a higher order.


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