Friday, September 11, 2009

Why I just don't mind seeing newspapers go out of business in the slightest

Most people think it's the internet's fault that newspapers are slowly going the way of the dinosaurs. It's online news sites and bloggers who can break stories faster than the rickety old presses can print, and they do so without the inherent bias of a giant company with vested interests in their investors who need to be placated with every article. Plus, web news is free, while you're forced to pay for a subscription or an inflated newsstand price to get your daily paper--and it's still half full of advertisements. And most of the rest of that space you skip anyway because you're only interested in politics, or in sports, or in local news.

So the newspaper industry is on its last legs, that much is certain. But record players still exist in this day of MP3s, and books are still being written even though we can see every single bestseller at our local cinema. They might be scaled back, but these industries haven't sounded their death rattles just yet. Because there is inherent worth in them. There are people doing some amazing work, and therefore, the public can never let them die.

Now, I'm not saying that there is no one worth reading in your local and national newspapers, but dear god is it a depressing state of affairs when you crack open those finger-blackening pages. This week just took it to the next level for me, when I happened upon two amazing pieces out of Southern California. The first one was blasted all over the internet, and is being claimed by some websites as "The Worst Newspaper Article of All Time." It's pretty hard to disagree.

It's from the Orange County Register, written by a right-wing sportswriter named Mark Whicker. I could go into depth about just how horrible it is, not just in writing, but simply in idea. Or how blatantly racist the guy is. I could mention that it's about the last eighteen years in sports--written expressly to, and making light of, Jaycee Dugard, the girl who was recently found eighteen years after having been kidnapped at the age of eleven, raped and forced to bear the child in a tent in her kidnapper/rapist's backyard! I could mention those things, but I'd rather you just read it yourself. Don't miss the punchy closing, where Whicker's witticism really hits a homer: "Congratulations, Jaycee. You left the yard."

I thought it couldn't be topped, as I read more internet news all day. And then I came upon another right-wing wack-job, one Andrew Malcolm, and his political blog on the Los Angeles Times website. It's nowhere near as incredibly tactless as Whicker's, but for all it lacks in unabashed insensitivity, it makes up for in sheer stupidity. At least Whicker's article had a point. A completely horrible one, but a point all the same. Malcolm's rant on the city of Pittsburgh, the sport of hockey and that goddamn foreigner "President" Obama just didn't really have much of a direction. It sounded more like a snot-nosed diary entry than an article for one of the biggest newspapers in the United States. Someone in a Malkin jersey must have cut him off on the 5 and he just couldn't get over it by the time his editor made him turn something in.

If this is really the state of the newspaper industry today, may it all go directly to hell, do not pass go, do not collect any more of my money. It's not just about the piss-poor writing, though I'll admit that's most of it; I mean, seriously, here I am, a writer myself who wishes his writing could be read by the millions that stumble over these two bozos' idiotic pap every week--and I don't even get paid for it! This isn't just the fault of two idiot paleoconservative hack "political" writers; it's the fault of their editors, their byline authors, and their newspapers at large. The simple fact that this kind of shit can make it into print at all is indicative of the standards to which our papers have fallen. This isn't even Pat Buchanan making his retarded, but at least well-written, weekly rants to the Washington Post. This is just... bad. It's horrible. It's a 9th-grader's attempt at humor on his Xanga blog. And there's a reason no one uses that site anymore.

In closing, I thought I should share just one more thing: my response to Malcolm, which apparently the LA Times didn't approve, because it hasn't showed up on the site a full ten hours later. And by "LA Times", I apparently mean Malcolm himself, because if you click through the comments that have been left, you'll notice little annotations beneath the better part of them... see them down there in the parentheses? Yeah, those are little notes that Malcolm actually added to people's posts, just to try to fit in more fun little jabs. He's the one modding his comments? Wonderful. This is who we are paying with our subscription money. I can't figure out why he didn't do the same to my post, or even let it show up at all. Guess it hit a little too close to home.

But I digress, as always. Now, my response. And to all my readers, have a happy somber 9/11!

Man, between you and Mark Whicker, this has really been a watershed week for Southern California newspaper columnists. But as deeply disturbed as I was at his complete lack of tact, I at least saw the ill-fated point of his article. You however... what exactly was it that you were even trying to say here? This couldn't really just be a rant about the city of Pittsburgh. I mean, you're a professional journalist, for one of the biggest newspapers in the United States. They don't print diary entries there, do they?

It's about hockey, right? You've just got sand in your shorts about the Kings, I guess. Hey man, we're Pirates fans, we know how it is to be on the losing team. Or is this about football? Are you still worked up about losing your Rams and your Raiders? It's been fifteen years, you know. Probably time to move on. Maybe it's just President Obama getting you all riled up. I'm sure just hearing that name gets your knickers all in a twist. Sounds kinda foreign, doesn't it? Man, you sure don't like that; especially not with that pesky "President" out there in front. So that's what it's got to be, right? A little bit of hate, maybe a touch of jealousy, a sprinkle of racism thrown in their for good measure. Because it can't just be about how much you think Pittsburgh sucks. There's no way your editor let this kind of thing slip through.

Seriously now, Mr. Malcolm. To pick this thing apart would be a field day for any legitimate journalist. The least you could have done when you decided to turn in a snot-nosed diary entry to your editor this week was take a minute for some fact-checking. You've already been called out on the history of Pittsburgh and the whole inviting national championship professional sports teams to the White House thing, so it's pointless to retread. But as a Californian, I'm sure you know that the "guns and religion" quip, which is always taken spectacularly out of context, was spoken at a fundraiser in San Francisco. But then again, I'm sure you don't pay much attention to the northern part of your state. Too many hippies and gays for your liking, eh?

Regardless of your politics, I'm ashamed. Not just as a Pittsburgher, or a sports fan in general, but as an aspiring political writer myself. To think that you've got a job and millions of subscribers while I write for free and reach only those who go looking for it; it just about makes me sick to the stomach, sir. This is absolutely some of the worst writing I've read since... well, since this morning when Mr. Whicker's ridiculous article was blasted all over the internet. I can only hope that the both of you find your desks empty come Monday. The newspaper business is already sounding its swan song, and they're probably looking to cut some fat in your office anyway.

1 comment:

  1. wow. Pretty great stuff here. Though as much as i hate to say it, most of the time the guy is an actual pretty good sports writer, 9 times out of 10, but you're right with everything you said here. It's completely disgusting and inexcusable.