It is, at the moment, blowing about 30 miles per hour. So the local police sent out a text alert to tell all subscribers that it’s windy. Police are never happy about sharing information with the stinging little gnats who share it with the rest of the community, but these alerts — touted as a valuable community-information tool — are turning out to be the guy who sends you that thing everyone was sending around two weeks ago, today: Hey, have you seen this issue of the Onion, the one they did after 9/11? It’s awesome!
Earlier this summer a restroom weenie-wagger turned up in one of the parks, peed on a little boy and slipped away. I got the text alert three days after the story had been in both dailies and both weeklies. You can see why I deduct my cell service as a business expense.
The po-pos here aren’t so bad, though; it’s just hard to get the idea of “urgency” to stick with people who don’t share your particular definition of it. Journalists in general love urgency; it’s our dirty little secret, how much we love to pound our keyboards on deadline or take dictation over a two-way radio, and– I’m dating myself, aren’t I? Alan worked Friday night, and came home with a nail-biter about how the pop-music writer nearly didn’t get his review of the Eminem/Jay-Z show in the paper, because 42,000 Twittering/texting/Facebook-updating fans had hogged all the extant bandwidth. He couldn’t get a foothold on the groaning, overloaded data cloud, and as minute after minute went by and the presses began straining to start, he–
I interrupted: “Why didn’t he just dictate?”
“Well, he could call to tell you he couldn’t get his story uploaded. It couldn’t have been that long. I would have told him to dictate it to me. You could get it done in 10 minutes, easy.”
It’s been seven years since I’ve spent any significant time in a newsroom. My husband? Just sighed.
I still think it could work. It’s not a thousand-word analysis on the midterm elections. It’s a few paragraphs about a hip-hop concert. You could rattle off half of it without even hearing it: “Forty thousand fans roared their approval when Lady Gaga appeared on a special throne set apart from the crowd.” (This is true, but a pas de deux with Flickr has turned up no photo proof.) And so on.
Dictation — and its impish twin, rewrite — is one of those things that’s gone for good, along with other antique technologies like using a cell phone for talking. But I think it’s relevant. What is a TV reporter giving an ad-lib standup from the scene of breaking news but dictation by a prettier person? I’ve said this before: I’m interested in how the newest news-carrying technology (the web) uses the language not of old technology (newspapers), but of even older technology (really old newspapers). I can exclusively reveal this because sometimes I watch TMZ, which uses as its framing device a newsroom meeting, everybody sitting around pitching their stories to the boss. And even that is old, because the people are smiling and happy. Today’s newsroom meeting is a grim affair of reading budgets and waiting to see whose turn it is to have a bucket of shit dumped on their head; as my funny fellow Fellow Rob said as we left a Detroit Free Press morning meeting back during our magic year of sabbatical, “Have you ever seen so many miserable people in one place in your life?”
Jeez, I sound like an old fart whittlin’ at the cracker barrel. Time to move on.
As I slept very very badly the night before, I turned on that Alex Gibney doc on HBO last night to keep me company while I worked. “My Trip to al-Qaeda,” based on Lawrence Wright’s book “The Looming Tower” and stage show derived from it, wasn’t Gibney’s best work, but it was very good, and I’m sorry more of you don’t get HBO, so you could watch it. I was reminded anew of my reaction to the book, the way it underlined how many our reactions to 9/11 — from the invasion of Iraq to the Patriot Act to the current lowbrow sideshow over the so-called mosque at Ground Zero — were pretty much by the book dictated by Osama bin Laden himself. He said, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch,” and that’s what we did. Meanwhile, even the smart Republicans I know still refer to “Obama’s apology tour,” suggesting everyone’s taking their talking points from Fox News these days.
Why do we have such a hard time grasping situations more complicated than a bumper sticker? It’s depressing.
A memory of his mail-carrying days, from our own Coozledad. I’m stealing his description of the local weekly newspaper, “a sort of support group for people suffering from ideopathic morbid ineducability.”
Zorn says he saw the Daley exit coming when the city failed to get the Olympics.
The Baltimore Sun uses the word “limn” in a headline. As a former copy editor, I see the appeal immediately — a four-letter word with a head count of three.
Off to work. Office hours and a haircut today. Oh, and an interview, too.