Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Newspapers to journalists: It's not you, baby, it's me

For many in the newspaper business, the report this week that the Christian Science Monitor is getting rid of it's print editions, except for a weekend magazine, was a sign that yes, honey, it is over.
The writing and reporting in the CSM has always been held up as a shining example for young journalists.
But hey, who are we kidding? Even young journalists aren't reading newspapers any more.
Even John Yemma, longtime Boston Globe editor and now editor of the Monitor, is quoted in today's Globe as saying "Everybody seems to recognize that print is on its way out."
Yesterday, my dental hygienist asked me when I mentioned nobody's reading the paper anymore, "So, is everyone reading the internet?"
Reading the internet. Interesting.
No they're not. They're LOOKING AT the internet. Skimming through it. Watching YouTube videos.
My mantra over the past couple years has become "The more information there is available, the less informed people are."
People are now being bombarded with information, constantly. Cell phones that have internet access, texting, computers, Ipods -- there's a constant wall of noise coming at them electronically.
And people are becoming immune to the noise -- the information. If it's not a quick sound bite, they don't know it.
they think they're informed, because of all the noise. So why read a stodgy old newspaper? The noise generation doesn't have the time or inclination to read. Therefor, circulation is going down never to return. And the mean, mean result of that is that newspaper quality has become eroded. Totally eroded in the case of a lot of five-figure circulation dailies who just don't have what it takes money, smarts and talent-wise, to evolve.
Even my sainted mother -- the woman who somehow made six unruly kids the voracious readers and information-gatherers that they are today -- told me the other day she is considering canceling her subsciption to their local paper, the Portland Press Herald because "there's nothing in it."
Granted, Mom and Dad get the Boston Globe, the New York Times and a host of newsmagazines, but still.
I asked her, "Mom, how are you going to know what the City Council is doing?"
"I'll just get it from TV," was her reply.
Et tu, Mom? Et tu?
Obviously, all the railing and navel-gazing by the print journalism industry is not going to change things. We have to jump on board or get out of the road.
But, speaking as a 30-year and third-generation journalist, it is one tough, non-amicable breakup.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Maine point

I took a drive up to the Knox/Waldo counties of Maine today. For anyone reading this unfamiliar with Maine, this is the beautiful area northeast of Augusta on the route to Belfast and the coast. I am always struck by the beauty of central Maine when I haven't been there for a while.

Another thing I'm struck by is how most of Maine, once you get off the interstate or away from the touristy south coast, is in many ways untouched by time.

Unity, home to a college and the popular Common Ground Fair, has one little block of recently built town offices and business -- and that's it.

Thorndike is there on the map, and people apparently live there, but what used to be its down center is a grouping of boarded-up, falling down clapboard buildings.

In between Augusta and Belfast, a distance of some 40-odd miles, there are no box stores, no Rite-Aids, not even a large grocery store.

Belfast and Augusta have both grown a little over the past couple decades, but not much if measured by the standards of the rest of New England.
One thing that struck me about Maine -- prosperity has never, ever touched it. Not when times are good, and certainly not when times are bad.
I don't think I really have a point to make here about anything. Just an observation -- Maine is still the least known and understood state in New England.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why I love Dennis Kucinich

This from the Associated Press tonight:

"New York City officials told a congressional panel Friday that they didn’t do anything improper in shepherding through $1.3 billion in financing for a new Yankee Stadium, but the assurances did little to mollify the congressman who is investigating the deal.
At issue was a six-fold increase in the city’s assessed value of the land, to around $200 million. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, suggested the reason was to make it easier to get tax-exempt bonds to pay for the construction of the ballpark in the South Bronx."

Not only is he the smartest and clearest-thinking member of Congress, but he also hates the Yankees.
You go, Dennis.

Intellectual Obesity II

So, today I'm out running and a lady in a huge Lexus SUV tops to ask me directions. She's looking for a street a half block away. Her GPS isn't showing it.
And she was totally flummoxed when I tried to give her directions. No idea what street she was on or what the main drags in the area were.
Remember the old days, when someone would give you directions to their house or you'd look it up in your street atlas? Or both?
Now that everyone has a GPS in their car, they just happily drive off into unknown territory totally oblivious to where they are going. When the GPS fails for whatever reason, they are lost. With no way to get unlost. It's like spellcheck for the luxury car crowd.
And that's the big issue with all our modern conveniences -- when someone actually has to do or think for herself, she doesn't know how.
Boy, when the aliens finally come to take over, it's going to be an easy take for them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A few questions about "straight talk"

Are Americans so cowed by the very rich, or just ignorant?
Why would a proposal to make the ultra-rich pay their fair share of taxes and working slobs like us pay less "socialism"?
Why, when even conservative, god-fearing Parade magazine pointed out that regular people would pay less in taxes under Obama's plan do people still not get that?
Why does no one "remember" that when Obama answered Joe the Plumber's question, he pointed out that Joe himself would pay less in taxes under his plan?
Why do many people seem to be deliberately ignoring the facts in favor of the almost cartoonish blatherings of the McCain-Palin campaign?
Too bad we can't tax ignorance, then maybe people would start informing themselves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obesity, and it's really morbid...

All the excitement over Sarah Palin being on Saturday Night Live last week just helps prove that we are not only becoming a physically obese country, we are also becoming an intellectually obese one.
Don't give me a workout, don't give me a diet. I don't want to work hard.
Sound bites and YouTube are the Doritos and Cheese Doodles of the information age.
Millions of people watched the perky vice-presidential wanna-be on SNL -- or caught up with her on YouTube or the zillions of TV outlets that replayed it ad nauseum the next day.
Meanwhile, how many of those people could tell you about her fiscal policy while governor of Alaska? Or her stance on things like NAFTA, Supreme Court nominations, Social Security or recount her health insurance views?
Hmgfff mmmm hmgggvfff...pass the doughnuts, please.

DVD recommendation of the week: "The Hanging Gale" A 1995 BBC production about a four-brother family decimated by the Irish potato famine of 1846. And if you're not yet a Michael Kitchen fan -- he's one of the great underrated actors of our time -- you will be after this. His nuanced performance as the conflicted land agent is what elevates this four-hour miniseries from simply really good to great. Watch it!