Inhumane Humanity

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

Friday, September 26, 2014

Paper Boys, Media Outlets and T-Rex

Shawnee Oklahoma, 1960.  It’s 5:00 AM on a very typical winter morning in the prairie; bone-breaking cold with frost, ice, or snow (more often than not, all three) covering everything in sight. Even the air seems to be solidified with ice. The ever-present prairie wind is biting into my exposed face while simultaneously shaking the icicles off the now bare pecan trees; like bombs dropped by some unseen aircraft, they crash onto the corrugated steel roof of the barn/garage creating a sound I’m occasionally reminded of as cars slam into one another at a busy intersection; minus the screeching tires.

Like stalagmites and stalactites joined over centuries of undisturbed formation, icicles are hanging from the eves of the house; or are they standing from the ground? I can no longer tell, but they form an almost prison-like cell around the porch caging me in until I’m ready to “break free” for the first of two daily routines; my part in the promulgation of news.

I firmly believe the inventor of the Frisbee was once a kid with a paper route. Those of us old enough to remember this routine can recall the simple, but well respected skill of folding a newspaper into a square and sailing them through the air from the street without so much as a break in peddling (unless of course your bicycle, like mine, was possessed), AND skillfully landing it on the porch, next to the door, on the opening side so the customer need but open the door for two seconds to retrieve the paper.

All this without hitting the door or house to avoid waking the customer.

Sitting amongst several bundles of newspapers dropped by the “spotter truck,” earlier in the morning at the end of the long, dirt driveway, I’m using one bundle as a temporary chair (the first time is most certainly the last time one sits for longer than thirty seconds on a surface exposed to winter conditions in the prairie). I'm rapidly folding each copy of the morning news, the “Shawnee News Star” and stuffing them into tight, organized rows inside the canvas satchels which hung on each side of my daily nemesis – the demonic Schwinn bicycle with nut-cracker bearings.

Oh how I would have loved to see that damned bicycle crushed, melted and left to rust in some long-forgotten junk yard. Or better yet, throw it onto one of the busy RR tracks in Shawnee and watch with utter satisfaction as it received its just rewards; over and over again.

More than fifty years later, it’s oddly contemptible to see some lunatic in a car swerving through the neighborhood at speeds even the Nevada Highway Patrol would take issue with on the freeway. For the safety of my dogs, I don’t leave my backyard until this moron has made the loop through the neighborhood; like someone who has been on an all night binge, he/she carpet bombs the neighborhood, depositing massive bundles of “newspapers” wherever they may fall.

If the reader is fortunate, the paper is at least in the same neighborhood as their house, but he/she must retrieve it from the neighbor’s yard, from under the car, or even from atop the car.

Like the paperboys of the 1950’s, 60’s and earlier, printed news is on the brink of extinction. Some will blame everything from gossip to technology. Some Newspapers are unequivocal in pointing the finger of blame squarely at the Internet, as if it were vampire zombie werewolves raiding precious advertising revenue.

As is often the case in human nature, people point fingers at symptoms rather than the cause and a loss in ad revenue is just that; another symptom.

Once a true art; unbiased, unabashed and sincerely concerned in informing the public at all costs, printed media was a trusted companion for anyone with a porch or within walking distance to a news stand. Just as the airwave artists of a long gone era, John Cameron Swayze, David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, Walter Cronkite, and the king of media news, Edward R Murrow, printed media likewise earned admiration and respect from dedicated readers around the world.

But that was then.  And this is now; wherein I see two major afflictions killing off the media outlets:
  1. PROFIT: Media has evolved, like so many other aspects of corporate America, into a single-minded entity with one purpose and one purpose only; to earn shareholder dividends. As long as profit is turned; as long as the corporate CEOs and Chairs continue to receive their absurdly massive and unearned income; like a beheaded snake biting its unattached body in reflexive behavior, media will continue to commit suicide while the rest of us search for quality information rather than page after page of political opinion and manipulation.
  2. TARGETED AUDIENCE: Without great effort, one cannot find a printed newspaper that is anything more than editorialized, polarized bullshit seemingly hell-bent on reducing its readership to such a specialized niche, advertisers would be fools to blow their budgets on such restricted customer bases.
Regardless of your “political pole,” be it left, right or in between, US media outlets have become so polarized due to their efforts to support the particular corporate leadership’s political agenda, they no longer seek “news,” but a storyline which fits the company image. In doing so, the media outlets focus on a diminished audience, serving the interests of limited readership whose political views most resemble those of the media ownership.

Despite the pitifully inaccurate diagnoses of these self-treating physicians of news outlets, what we see in this new age of self-destructive media is pure and simple blindness to the cause and effect of their own selfish desires. There are but two problems and two solutions, and it doesn’t take a grossly overpaid, under-achieving executive to diagnose the problem and to correctly treat the illness.

But they won't.  Rather, they will cry, whine and continue to promote an ever-shrinking reader base until they too are a relic of the past.

The correlation between the paperboy/early-morning lunatics, and the news then/now is obvious and impossible to ignore.  Quality is always better than high-speed, sloppy volume; bullshit is bullshit – it all stinks and our media outlets are packed full of bullshit. Nobody in corporate America wants to deal with it, and certainly; nobody in the neighborhoods wants to pay for it.

Unlike T-Rex, which had little to say about its extinction, printed and broadcast media outlets are rabidly frothing at the mouth while seeking their own demise with short-sighted, delusional, profit-oriented goals. When they find themselves extinct, there will be nobody to point the fingers at but themselves.

Certainly, broadcast companies can continue to pollute the airwaves with the likes of "The Twerking Bubble Butts of Go-down, Dumb-down, and Run-down," or "Valley Girl Vampires Caught in the act of Fanging Pflugerville's Zombies." We all know there's no shortage of takers on those mind-expanding views into reality.   However, it'll be a bit difficult for the printed media to explode with such distinctive representations of what life has to offer us all.

Perhaps T-Rex and the US media outlets do indeed have extinction in common - they're both nothing more than overgrown chickens pecking away at chat while the meat, the stuff we readers truly wish to read and with which to keep ourselves informed, is consumed by maggots and decay.

Natural Selection doing what it does best.