March 29, 2006

Cri de Coeur

I'm engaged in a newspaper war and am slowly becoming one of the cranks that were so entertaining on C-Span prior to 1992 (which is about the time I stopped watching). Back then the sainted Brian Lamb, the ever-patient foil to hysterics and conspiracists, would calmly push buttons and say, "next caller please". But you see I have phantom-limb symptom, since my once-favorite newspaper is lost to me and I keep thinking it's still there.

Some background so you'll understand my long parochial nightmare: When I was a young whippersnapper of two and twenty I'd enjoy lengthy, luxuriating reads til my hands ran black with the newsprint. Bias, lying and bad reasoning were all kept mostly on the editorial page - (gosh am I showing my age!) - and one could deal with them there. Youth's quintessential quality is the failure to appreciate what you have and back then we had a newspaper that kept opinion & slant off the front page and was even center-to-right on the political spectrum editorially. And I failed to appreciate it. Worse, I now somewhat begrudge my liberal brother & sisters their time in the sun. For every conservative now taking blood pressure medicine, there's an elated liberal high-fiving their spouse.

So a few years ago, maybe half a decade ago, the Dispatch changed hands and editors and officially became a liberal newspaper, missing only the declarative masthead "Serving the Democratic Party since 2001". (The magazine Columbus Monthly explained why and how in a lengthy cover story.) Lacking the instinct for the jugular, the Dispatch caved in '04 and supported Bush for president. (The Other Paper, an alternative newspaper in town, made sport of the fact that the Dispatch has spent the last six years hating George Bush except on the day they published the endorsement.)

Reluctantly, I cancelled the paper during the months leading up the '04 election and now get it only on the weekends. But I still find a galley-full of errors of omission and commission (by my lights of course) such that I'm emailing the editor more often than my wife. Crank, I'm telling you. My brother-in-law is encouraging me to start an anti-Dispatch website where we rant and rave. Perhaps call it "dispatchdistortions.com". I'm skeptical, thinking the size of the potential audience would require an electron microscope to observe. Besides, John the Piper has a much better attitude than I do. Here he conjures Belloc's lector/auctor convention:
Well, I do something other than criticize newspapers. I read them. Three a day, most days. Not counting weeklies. And, yes, most are in an advanced state of cultural and moral collapse. Maybe they always were. But there's something exciting about newspapers. The first thing I do visiting a city is buy the local papers. It gives you a feel for the place. If you don't understand that, I can't explain it. Anyway, like God and the sinner, one hopes for their conversion rather than their extinction.

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