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Robert A. Mills

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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

HEADLINES
12/17/2011 6:31:49 AM
I was watching Jon Stewart on TV’s DAILY SHOW when he said, in reference to a newspaper headline in the New York Times, “and they wonder why print is dead!”

The article in question had to do with some remarkable innuendo about certain political peccadilloes, and the headline was a bland and milquetoast synopsis that would not inspire the most rabid anti-conservative to inquire further. I wish I could accurately recall the words of vague appeasement, but I can’t. I was too busy mentally reconstructing the headline to an article I had read in the same publication a day or two earlier.

I can’t remember the actual slug the NYT used, but the first sentences of the report stated, “Republicans were for President Barack Obama's requirement that Americans get health insurance before they were against it. The obligation in the new health care law is a Republican idea that's been around at least two decades. It was once trumpeted [by Newt Gingrich] as an alternative to Bill and Hillary Clinton's failed health care overhaul in the 1990s. These days, Republicans call it ‘government overreach’.”

The headline should have been something on the order of THE GOP SUPPORTED HEALTH CARE REFORM BEFORE OBAMA DEMANDED IT, but they came up with something dull and vapid (now of course the entire GOP is screaming ‘Repeal! Repeal!) I wish I could remember the headline.

I read the article anyway because I read everything. I even sent it out with proper attribution (not as a column, however) to certain people that I felt might profit by such exposure.

The point, obviously, is that Jon Stewart is right: our print media is dead. When was the last time you actually looked inside a newspaper except for coupons? Ever read a magazine outside of a doctor or dentist’s office?

I canceled our subscription to the Atlanta Journal & Constitution in 1994, as soon as the ‘introductory freebie’ expired a year after we came South. I still keep TIME coming, but mainly because of their fabulous premiums (they make wonderful Christmas gifts,) cheap price and easy bathroom storage (what else but an old copy of TIME diverts a guest’s curiosity about your medicine cabinet?) The only thing I read with much enthusiasm, anyway, is Joel Stein’s column, and then sometimes even it gets overlooked.

“Jeez,” say some of my less perspicacious relatives, “if that’s the case, where you get your news and stuff from?”

I have to be honest. Most of whatever awareness I have comes from TV, radio and the Internet. For diversity and amusement, I rely on conversation and emails from my peers — as well as junk mail from the U.S. Postal Service. When I really want the Outside on the Inside, I listen, for chuckles and belly laughs, to Neal Boortz, Sean Hannity and the Fox News Network. In the absence of HUSTLER magazines or the PLAYBOY Forum, I dial up Rush Limbaugh to find out what pablum Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are spewing.

My biggest concern, however, is the state of books per se, be they novels, biographies, texts, anthologies or even ‘coffee table’ monstrosities that are rarely looked at but occasionally dusted (especially if company is coming.) The problem seems to be that no one under thirty reads much anymore.

Short stories, sadly, are an endangered species, as is evidenced by the paucity of magazines employing fiction editors or offering sections devoted to miniscule literature. This lost art has become a lost chunk of academia.

As most serious agents and publishers will attest, the best writing today comes in ‘over the transom’ and is often buried in the ‘slush pile.’

Of course, publishing is first and foremost a business; its secondary role, as a commodity, is to showcase new and extraordinary talent. But what the world needs — here in the U.S. certainly — are readers; unfortunately, this country suffers from a population that cannot read and thus cannot enjoy one of the great facets of life. Perhaps that is why fewer Americans have library cards than aliens have driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers.

Publishers do have egos, however; they have stockholders and corporate investors to satisfy, and these, with some justification, are interested primarily in ‘best sellers’ that enhance the bottom line. Who can blame them? Pulitzer Prizes are seen only through eyes dimmed by dollar signs.

Serious writers write because that’s what writers do: they write. Recognition is the reward we seek, although it’s always nice to get paid for one’s labor, but unless you are a political hack or medical marvel, your chances of getting between the covers and producing a ‘best seller’ are only as great as your ‘celebrity.’ Look at the drivel currently polluting the Best Seller Lists — it is, for the most part, written by people who on their best day would have trouble passing a 6th grade English exam (come to think of it, most 6th graders would have trouble passing a 6th grade English exam.)

These glossy entries are bought in droves, given as gifts by unsuspecting do-gooders and are seldom read past the ‘Acknowledgments.’

We, as a modern consuming public, seem to have a distorted sense of priorities when it comes to book buying. We simply don’t know what to do when confronted with decisions like relying on the political and historical insights of, say, a Doris Kerns Goodwin or the gobble-de-gook of, say, a Glenn Beck. The popular thing, however, is to follow the money; maybe, in the final analysis, that’s the best thing to do.

After all, as one of our greatest penmen once said, “You guys do what you want; as for me, I go for the gelt.”

Good point. Some have suggested I charge about $40 as year for a Blog Subscription, and based on current readership I would see about a grand a month. Or, with the economy being what it is, I might earn a pitiful pouch of sheckles — thanks mainly to a few relatives feeling sorry for me, plus admirers (if any.)

No, I think I’ll continue these scribblings gratis — at least until the Webmaster warns me nobody is out there.


Copyright©2011 by Robert A. Mills


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