By Sara McDermott
What if all the newspapers went away? What if Dear Abby didn’t write back and Dagwood got fired once and for all?
Somehow it isn’t the same, on a cold, snowy Iowa morning, to carry a steaming cup of hot coffee to the computer and open a dot.com front page. It doesn’t slide out of my lap with the ads falling on the floor, and I can’t wad it up and throw it across the room when I don’t agree with the editorials.
After all, the newspaper we know today has a distinguished history. Ben Franklin, who around 1729 noticed that the news could be a moneymaking venture instead of just an amusing addition to the printing business, might not have realized the effect newspapers would have on the development of our democracy. Politicians used the medium as a sounding board for their causes, one of which was the scrapping of the Articles of Confederation in preparation for the birth of the United States Constitution in 1787. Freedom of the press was included in the Bill of Rights, the collective amendments made to the Constitution, and has stood against oppression ever since.
But the future has arrived and geezers like me, hopeless newspaper junkies, are being dragged into the fray. So which will it be if the print editions fade away — my daily paper online or broadcast news on cable TV?
Let’s see. First, I’ll consider the basics of broadcast news reporting. Since the main qualification for an anchor chair on cable news seems to be great hair and a toothpaste smile, it may not take long.
The visual is an important consideration in this genre. The women must have their hair arranged over one shoulder or curved under their chins to look sexy and alluring.
Yes, the age of info-news is here. Consider the panel discussions that have taken over prime time. If you want to hear the same subjects discussed for two or three hours in a row, with the talking heads using the same overworked expressions throughout, tune in any cable news channel between 7 and 10 p.m. on a weeknight. In time, you can get used to the yelling and interrupting, not to mention two people talking at once with neither saying anything intelligible to the viewer.
Then consider the “teaser” — the odious practice of mentioning an upcoming story and then saving it for the last part of the hour. It isn’t worthy of professional reporting.
It seems the all-news channels are allowing the news business to morph into show business where ratings prevail over substance and the personalities who deliver the news try to outdo each other with clever repartee.
So life without print news — show business with B-list actors — is that what we will be left with if the computer crashes?
What would Ben say?
Sara McDermott is a freelance writer from Cedar Rapids. Comments: SASEfirstname.lastname@example.org