Bitch, bitch, bitch.

A few years ago, the editor of my ex-newspaper had a big idea: We were going to make our obituaries super-duper. No longer would they be printed in itty-bitty type — the No. 1 complaint among its target audience, old people — and no longer would they be held to a strict content code. If you wanted to say Grampa didn’t “die” but “was called home to Jesus,” well, you could. (Within reason.) You could also say he loved bowling and fishing. If his legal name was Roberto but everyone in the world called him Bobo, you could call him Bobo. The pictures got bigger. The obits did, too. Frankly, they threatened to take over the metro section, but I will give the editor this: They were very popular. And they were free, a longstanding tradition in our paper, pretty rare in newspapering above the small-town level.

The problem with newspapers is, the readership is aging. The average newspaper reader is now about 106, and gaining two years every three months or so. Editors have slain whole forests just for the paper to exchange memos on how to appeal to younger people. (They all boil down to, “Let’s run more stories about pop music.”)

So when we instituted the New and Improved Obits, it was… a signal of sorts. Not that we’d given up, exactly, but that we’d made peace with an inescapable reality. We were going to wow the nursing homes.

The new obits lasted a few years, but couldn’t survive the terrible swift sword of cost-cutting. The last publisher shrunk them back to their previous size, turned them over to the ad department and, inevitably, started charging for them. (This was dressed up and presented to readers as a huge improvement. Astonishingly, letters to the editor revealed they weren’t buying that line of crap. Good for you, readers!)

My old paper must be accepting reality again. They recently expanded The Rant, a one-paragraph, anonymous sound-off bitchfest, to a daily feature. It’s like eavesdropping in the sunroom of death’s waiting room.

I used to read the Rant aloud on Neighbors day. I do this old-person voice, and I could always find the Rants that came from old people, usually because they said so up front:

I don’t like the city’s plan for the new larger trash containers. I’m a senior and I can’t lug these heavy containers to the curb. Why doesn’t anyone think of us? (There’s a whiny sort of old person you’d just like to slap, isn’t there? “Go read about pop music!” you want to tell them.)

Why do we have to look at obscene bumper stickers on an increasing number of vehicles? They are most offensive, but one cannot avoid observing them when they are on the vehicle in front of you.

I think there’s a new strain in the Rant lately — the Whiny Mommy. You know these women, the ones who stay home with their kids and wonder why the Nobel committee hasn’t stopped by with their medal yet. What’s worse, they suspect it will NEVER HAPPEN, and boy does that piss them off. You can spot them by their incessant, Santorum-like use of the word ‘family”:

People need to stop speaking disparagingly of families that drive SUVs � a definition that has become meaningless as people define smaller and smaller vehicles that happen to be boxy as SUVs.

Some Rants spark others: Someone complained in a recent Rant that it�s not proper to disclose in Business Monday the sale amount of real estate transactions. Well, you better be glad you live in Fort Wayne because in Springfield, Ohio, that�s normal. Everybody knows what everybody paid for their house, who bought it and all of that.

Some people nurse their Rants all day, waiting to get home to bitch about them: The sun hits the Wells Fargo ATM screen located in front of Kohl�s at State Road 37. I have to get out of my car to block the sun to see the screen. What�s the point of a drive-thru if you can�t see the screen?

I’m beginning to think they ought to add a line to the masthead: “Now indulging the self-pitying, daily.”


I hate Red Delicious apples (except for those just picked from the tree) and have ever since I notice how much they suck. The WashPost explains why.

I don’t care what anyone says, this Robert Novak story is a stitch. Wonkette has a roundup.

And meanwhile, if you really want to know how to run a newspaper, I think Hank has some great ideas.

Have a good weekend.

Posted at 7:57 am in Uncategorized |

17 responses to “Bitch, bitch, bitch.”

  1. colleen said on August 5, 2005 at 9:35 am

    I hear ya on the rant thing. It amazes me that people take the time and effort to submit some of those… the bumper sticker one. And regarding the trash containers….what keeps going through my mind is how is this city going to accomplish anything in the way of real growth, change, advancement, etc, if they can’t even CHANGE THE TRASH CANS without people getting in a tizzy over it. Sheesh. People, suck it up, use the new cans, and get on with your lives.

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  2. mary said on August 5, 2005 at 11:07 am

    They showed the video of the Novak scene on The Daily Show several times last night. I admit that I don’t share Novak’s political sympathies, but I think that even if I did, I’d think he was an a–hole. His, and Ms Harris’s a–holeness is completely independent of political thought.

    Also on The Daily Show last night was a remarkable quote from Bill O’Reilly regarding photos from Abu Ghraib, the Geneva Convention, and terrorism. You can see the Daily Show online, and they rerun last night’s show immediately following the current show.

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  3. mary said on August 5, 2005 at 11:08 am

    …make that, his and Ms Harris’s ARE…

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  4. mary said on August 5, 2005 at 11:20 am

    Arrgh. It’s IS.

    I need my kids around to correct my grammar.

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  5. brian stouder said on August 5, 2005 at 1:30 pm

    I used to wonder how long it would be before one of Ft Wayne’s newspapers would have a ‘rant’ section. The JG has that insispid “cheers and jeers” thingy – but it’s more rigid and formulaic than a rant-space. The Logansport Pharos Tribune has had a thing called “You Said It” for some time now, and it’s always funny….to the extent that I almost suspected a bit of orchestrated commentary. In one collection, a fellow was going on about how he can’t stand people who are mean to cats. He had found a basket of kitties down by the Eel River, and was venting his spleen. And in the same collection of rants, another fellow raged about how stray cats are constantly fouling his garden – and that he knew of a particular gray cat that might just come up missing one day!

    Anyway – the letters to the editor have always been one of the most popular parts of the paper, because everyone wants to see what other people are bitching about – so the rant thing is only a more button-down version of the same.

    the thing that newspapers will always have over the internet is that you can more easily eat while perusing them – and you can take it with you into the bathroom (although I suppose pda’s have that covered – but still!)

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  6. Jennifer said on August 5, 2005 at 5:13 pm

    Gah. I hated doing obits when I did them back in the day. One of the few smug moments I’d get to have was editing out “was called to the LORD”-type crap and just smacking in “DIED”, dammit.

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  7. brian stouder said on August 5, 2005 at 5:45 pm

    Say – a newspaper editorial question –

    It caught my ear that when the DNR folks (fish cops) conducted sweeps of the state parks and arrested people for indecent exposure and sexual battery(?) – the head fish cop said something like “and we WILL publish their names” –

    which gave me pause.

    On the one hand, publishing matters of public record is a key function of a newspaper – but it is still a matter of editorial choice for the paper, is it not?

    For example whether or not to publish the name of a minor accused of a crime is an editorial decision, and not a matter of law, yes?

    By way of asking – can the papers dispense with being an (unpaid) automatic tool of the DNR’s campaign to shame people?

    I’m not a fan of exhibitionism/voyeurism – and indeed, it serves a public purpose to report that police have swept a park and arrested many people for this or that bit of inappropriate public behavior…but I don’t think we’re missing anything if their names are not in the local paper

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  8. Nance said on August 5, 2005 at 5:53 pm

    On the one hand, publishing matters of public record is a key function of a newspaper – but it is still a matter of editorial choice for the paper, is it not?


    For example whether or not to publish the name of a minor accused of a crime is an editorial decision, and not a matter of law, yes?


    By way of asking – can the papers dispense with being an (unpaid) automatic tool of the DNR’s campaign to shame people?

    Of course. But. Remember this is a new era, and still an old one. Which means a good ol’ boy DNR officer will have little trouble convincing many newspaper editors to come around to his way of thinking, if he makes his argument well. Joe Weiler would have sent him packing, and I imagine Craig Klugman would too, but if these guys are busted at Huntington Reservoir, I expect the Huntington Herald-Press would publish the names.

    This happened in Columbus when I was there, and even though the paper had a policy against publishing misdemeanor arrests, the editor reasoned his way around it thusly: When 150 misdemeanor arrests happen in one place over the course of a week, it rises to a new level of news. And the names were published. (This was a rest-stop bust.)

    Also, in the new era, the DNR could post the names on its website, and have the same effect.

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  9. brian stouder said on August 5, 2005 at 6:47 pm

    “Also, in the new era, the DNR could post the names on its website, and have the same effect.”

    True enough, but then it is on their dime (or our dime, come to think of it!) – and also ‘on their heads’ – if not their consciences.

    Things get more of that patina of legitimacy when they’re “in the paper” (or at least on a paper’s website), rather than this or that axe-grinding website.

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  10. Dorothy said on August 5, 2005 at 7:08 pm

    This is so strange. Nance started her discussion today on the subject of obituaries, and here I am, heading tomorrow to Pittsburgh for my dad’s funeral. He passed away last night. There’s supposed to be an extended obit on him in the Tribune-Review tomorrow – I expect it’ll be on line after midnight.

    Dad was in Tom Brokaw’s second book – “The Greatest Generation Speaks”. It’s because of that claim to fame that he’s getting an extended obit in the paper. In case any of you have the book, my Dad’s name was Gregory Kirchner.

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  11. Nance said on August 5, 2005 at 8:50 pm

    Courage, Dorothy. And condolences.

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  12. Dave said on August 5, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    I read The Rant and think, is this what living here means? There’s been a couple of comments along the lines of, “If I’d known Mitch Daniels was going to push for Daylight Savings Time, I’d never voted for him.” You know these people weren’t paying any attention whatsoever, and other comments on other topics always confirm this.

    Always been a newspaper fan but, although I’m not as old as Nancy makes out newspaper readers to be, I fear for their demise. As has been said before, it’s amazing that this is a two newspaper town.

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  13. Nance said on August 5, 2005 at 9:59 pm

    Today’s Rant: I would like to say that we are over 75 and yet, when we go to a restaurant, the waitress and everybody else calls us �You guys.� I�d like to be treated with a little more respect.

    I rest my case.

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  14. harry near indy said on August 6, 2005 at 6:55 am

    brian stouder — yeh, i noticed a little blurb in the indy star friday about the busts for the homosexual assignations. iirc, some clown said they’d announce them.

    wonder if it’s governor combover’s appeal to the homophobic christers?

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  15. Claire said on August 7, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    Awww, let the people rant. They probably don’t have a blog!

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  16. Jeffrey said on August 9, 2005 at 10:35 am

    Here’s my rant….God am I glad to hear that I’m not alone in hating Red Delicious apples….I’ll be really po’ed if they start messing with MacIntoshes!

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  17. Lois Marquart said on August 10, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    Yes, I have felt recently that the Rant has become very bitchy and whiny. I enjoyed them at first. I sent a Rave about something, but never saw it in print.

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