The Press

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Posted by PK on 01/09/02 - 13:29:15
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Let's talk about the Press:

Carl Hiaasen's new novel, " Basket Case" makes the point, in microcosm:

   "Good newspapers don't die easily. After three years in the bone-cold grip of Race Maggad III
(the newspaper owner), the Union Register still shows sparks of fire. This, in spite of being stripped
and junk-heaped like a stolen car.
   Only two types of journalists choose to stay at a paper that's being gutted by Wall Street
whorehoppers. One faction is comprised of editors and reporters whose skills are so marginal that
they're lucky to be employed, and they know it. Unencumbered by any sense of duty to the readers,
they're pleased to forego the pursuit of actual news in order to cut expenses and score points with
the suits. These fakers are easy to pick out in a bustling city newsroom--they're at their best when
arranging and attending pointless meetings, and at their skittish, indecisive worst under the heat of a
looming deadline. Stylistically they strive for brevity and froth, shrinking from stories that demand
depth or deliberation, stories that might rattle a few cages and raise a little hell and ultimately change
some poor citizen's life for the better. This breed of editors and reporters is genetically unequipped
to cope with the ranting phone call from the mayor, that wrath-of-God letter from the libel lawyer or
that reproachful memo from the company bean counters. These are journalists who want peace and
quiet and no surprises, thank you. They want their newsroom to be as civil, smooth-running and
friendly as a bank lobby. They're thrilled when their telephones don't ring and their computers tell
them they don't have e-mail. The less there is to do, the slimmer the odds of them screwing up. And,
like Race Maggad III, they dream of a day when hard news is no longer allowed to interfere with
putting out profitable newspapers.
   The other journalists who remain at slow-strangling dailies such as the Union-Register are those
too spiteful or stubborn to quit. Somehow their talent and resourcefulness continue to shine, no
matter how desultory or beaten down they might appear. These are the canny, grind it out pros ...
who give our deliquescing little journal what pluck and dash it has left. They have no corporate
ambitions, and hold a crusty, subversive loyalty to the notion that newspapers exist to serve and
inform, period. They couldn't tell you where the company's stock closed yesterday on the Dow
Jones, because they don't care. And they dream of a day when young Race Maggad III is nabbed for
insider trading or cheating the IRS, or, even better,  attaching a transvestite to his cock while cruising
the shore of San Diego Bay in one of his classic Porsches. This vanishing species of journalist
would eagerly volunteer to write that squalid story or compose its headline, then plaster it on the
front page. Once upon a time they were the blood and soul of the newsroom--the prickly,
disrespecting, shit-stirring bastards--and their presence was the main reason that bright kids such as
Evan Richards lined up for summer internships at the Union-Register.
   And five years ago most of those kids would have jumped at the chance to return here after
college and join the paper at a humiliating salary, just to get in on the action. But after graduating
next year, young Evan is heading straightway to law school, his resume jazzed by a semester of
working journalism once viewed as a baptism by fire, but these days regarded more as an act of
exotic self-sacrifice; missionary work. Smart kids like Evan read the Wall Street journal. They know
that what's happened to the Union-Register is happening to papers all over the country, and that any
Jefferson ideals about a free and independent press would be flogged out of their callow hides
within weeks of taking the job. hey know that the people who run most newspapers no longer seek
out renegades and wild spirits, but rather climbers and careerists who understand the big corporate
picture and appreciate its corporate restraints. Kids like Evan know that most papers are no longer
bold or ballsy enough to be on the cutting edge of anything, and consequently are no damn fun.
   When Evan first came to work for Emma, I though he might be a keeper so I gave him a pep talk.
I told him that plenty of reporters start out as rookies on the obituary desk, which is true, and that the
talented ones quickly advance to bigger things, including the front page. And I remember young
Evan looking at me with such rumpled perplexity that I burst out laughing. Obviously what the kid
was aching to ask--had every right to ask--was: "What about you,Jack Tagger? Why are you
writing obits after twenty years in the business?" And since the answer offered both a laugh and a
lesson. I told young Evan the truth. His earnest reply: "Oh wow."
   Not wishing to spook him, I hastened to portray myself as an incorrigible hothead who more or
less dug his own grave, at which point Evan politely interrupted. He said that while he appreciated
my candor and encouragement, he'd never planned to make a career of the newspaper trade. He said
that from all he'd been reading, it was clear that the dailies were "over." A dying medium , he told
me. He had come the the Union-Register mainly to "experience" a newsroom, before they were all
gone. His second choice was undoubtedly a cattle drive.


"And the Press,  Let's talk about the Press
Why are they cowed? [mooooo]   What are they afraid of

Ever since 1984 the fourth estate of honor and liberty
Fear is rampant   close the Door
On the fabric of reality
They're wusses   no follow through
There's nothin goin on there
Why does anyone bother to read the
\  \  Fucking Press

Iran Contra   S & L s     [now: Power Companies  /  HMOs]
Worse than Watergate
No one knows   Nobody sees   What do you do/

Resort to Poetry!

Poets get killed for poetry in South Africa
and Pee...king
There's blood for poetry in Chile (Jara)
Salvador (Dalton)
And Arabia
and ...Baltimore

So let's list some targets
Targets of poetry
Targets for the Garden of

Targets for destruction
Or re-education as the Chinese so blithely put it

We got
Banks    S & Ls          Insurance companies (the worst!!!)
Almost ALL politicians   mainline churches   P G & E
IRS   CBS   The telephone company
Big oil   Big business   The Military

[Milken Hurwits, Keating Gingrich Thurmond Helms North Weinburger Colson Reagan Bush
Dig up Casey's body and feed it to...who'd eat it?

The Chinese would shoot 'em all and send their family a bill for the bullet
[ed note: this last betrays the age of this song
Now add Bushboy, et al]

These people

taking advantage of the people who are
workin' for their lives
What 'cha gonna do about all those people who
Don't give a shit for your life

It's your choice
Gotta do something

Could kill 'em all
Hang 'em high from phone poles in Washington imprison them all in a shopping mall
Film it for the archives  (the Archival Registry)
Use them for medical experiments     ...yaaaay
   organ transplants (though who'd want Jesse Helms' heart
Have them do something useful for a change

If we don't do something soon
The earth will look just like the moon

Which side are you on [3X]

           _____"Which Side Are You On" 1990-something

"Imagine you were an idiot.
Or imagine you were a member of Congress.
Oh, stop, I've repeated myself."
       ___ Mark Twain


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