Opinion

Smart bombs

A tangled Web

The e-mail conversation among a group of editorial writers across the country has increasingly turned to the depressing state of “dead-tree” journalism. One of them keeps a Peanuts cartoon affixed to his computer. It’s an exchange between Charlie Brown and Lucy:

Charlie: “A SPIDER! A SPIDER!

Lucy: “KILL HIM CHARLIE BROWN!”

Charlie: “Kill him, how can I kill him?”

Lucy: “Step on him! Do anything! HIT HIM WITH A NEWSPAPER!”

Charlie: “I HAVEN’T GOT A NEWSPAPER.”

Lucy: “Well, SUBSCRIBE to one!!!”

So even if you don’t like what you read, there’s still some use for the newspaper. Try killing a spider with your computer.

Look, I’m aware of the increasing information choices available to readers, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there’s some self-interest in promoting newspapers, but has society seriously pondered a world without journalists with some semblance of commitment to thorough reporting and balanced presentations?

I can already hear snickers on the left and right about “balance.” Politically passionate people often tell us that the newspaper is against them, but can they really say they put their objectivity on hold in making that judgment? It wouldn’t seem so, judging from the links to blogs and Web sites they helpfully send me, so I can get the “true facts.”

These Web sites and blogs chastise the “mainstream media” (MSM, for short) for a lack of balance, but they don’t begin to attempt that themselves. Hey, why bother when you have exclusive ownership of the truth? It’s so simple. The right has its truth. The left has its truth. Everybody’s happy … until they read the MSM, which has an annoying habit of muddying the waters with multiple takes on “the truth.”

The danger in this should be obvious. As columnist Clarence Page once wrote:

“If the complexity of the real world offends you, fret not. You can escape the MSM (mainstream media) and find comfort zones for all the live-long day that offer little or nothing to contradict your most cherished prejudices, preconceptions or paranoia.”

But beware of the spiders.

Snail’s pace. A man answers a knock at the door and sees a snail, which asks, “May I have a drink of water?” The man picks up the snail and tosses it across the street. Two years later, there’s a knock at the same door, and the man opens it. The snail asks, “What was that all about?”

Nearly three years ago, Otto Zehm died in police custody after a huge misunderstanding led to a tussle at a convenience store. Public outrage triggered an FBI investigation – a very long investigation. It’s as if evidence and paperwork were strapped to mollusks for delivery.

When can the public expect that knock at the door?

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Wednesdays and Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or at (509) 459-5026.


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