I had a dream last night, about how blogging could enliven and reinvigorate newspapers, but that’s not why I’m so late in getting some thoughts down today. Instead I’ve moved my morning schedule around to tend a real blog (in the blogging for dollars sense) that takes economic priority over these musings. But I want to write down that dream before the memory fades, because it is my sad sense that modern American journalism has all the firmness of white bread dipped in warm milk. And I imagine that a dose of ‘tude from the web could spice up what has, by and large, grown to be a pretty bland fare.
In my dream I was haraunging a small group of colleagues along these lines above. There was no rhyme nor reason to the setting or the characters for this exercise in face-reddening and fist-shaking. It was just a subsconsious upwelling against the formulaic nature of so much of what gets written ( some small portion of it by me) in the self-important style that passes for reportage.
I need not belabor the point. Anyone who reads a newspaper or listens to the TV news can recite the boilerplate. “In a stunning development” … “sources speaking on the condition of anonymity:” … said something so inconsequential “about the simmering controversy” that it is a miracle we do not all wake up sweating and shrieking at night.
Pardon me if this is not an original complaint. Many, many moons ago, when I was in the Navy, I recall reading former TV anchorman Edwin Newman’s book titled “Strictly Speaking” in which he warns that the re-transmission of business and political jargon was polluting Engling with “banalities, cliches, pomposities, redundancies and catchphrases.”
“Strictly Speaking” was published in 1974. If there are even two Americans who think mass media prose has improved in the intervening 3.2 decades, let them step into nearby phone booth and equivocate each other to death with cruel and unusual euphemisms.
But I see hope. In blogging. In the short, snarky phrases that card-carrying journalists are beginning to hoist online and — assuming they don’t get sued or fired for this effrontery — may gradually seep into the solemn gray columns in which we — who work in what critics call “corporate media” — dispense all the news that’s fit to print. Or whatever it is we do do on a daily basis.
Yes, there is hope, and I see it by analogy. We recently got a kitten to add to the menagerie that is our family. I’ve watched it go sniffing around, gradually maturing from a scaredy cat into a bold hunter, ready to pounce on any defiant dust ball or bottle cap. Blogging journalists are like kittens. Mayhaps one day we’ll start to take bigger leaps, hiss at danger, even stretch out our claws and bare our fangs.