By Rich Figel
Shakes Magic 8-Ball: "Reply hazy, try again."
Some readers have been asking what will happen to the Advertiser blogs when the two daily newspapers merge in June and launch StarAdvertiser.com. Last week, non-staff Advertiser bloggers got word that the Star-Bulletin will be letting us know which ones they'd like to continue. So my blog's days may be numbered.
But I don't intend to go quietly. I've always believed if you're going to write, then write like there is no tomorrow. Make your words count for something. And newspapers are something I've always been passionate about.
I started out as a college journalist in the late 70s when Woodward and Bernstein showed how important real investigative reporting was in our form of democracy. At the same time, writers like Hunter Thompson, Truman Capote and Tom Wolfe were putting their own spin on "reporting" non-fiction stories by using first-person and novelistic techniques. Today's journalism just doesn't seem to have the same soul. Now it's all about ratings and advertising revenues.
I literally grew up with news print on my fingers. As soon as I could read, I'd bring in the morning paper and flip to the comics or sports pages. My very first job was delivering the local afternoon paper to my neighbors when I was 10. My second job at age 12 was selling subscriptions to the Star-Ledger, New Jersey's largest daily. Our crew of kids went from town to town, telling people they could help us win a trip to Cape Kennedy by signing up for delivery.
In the 8th grade, our social studies teacher made us subscribe to the NY Times in order to read about the Vietnam War, which forever changed how I viewed the world. It also altered my relationship with my parents. As I learned more about the war, I began to question our government -- and by extension, my own father, who served in the Air Force and bought into the Dominoes Theory of communism as a threat to America. He refused to read the Times, a newspaper that did not shy away from exposing lies our government told us, or reporting atrocities committed by U.S. forces. When I finally spoke out against the war during dinner one night while the weekly casualties numbers were being flashed on the TV screen, we came to blows. He punched me until my face was a bloody mess.
What I discovered was facts are a dangerous threat to people with rigid beliefs. To me, journalists were NOT supposed to be objective or "fair and balanced." Because in the war of ideas, someone has to be on the side of the truth. It's not enough to simply report opposing viewpoints -- it's the fact-givers job to interpret the arguments and put them in context. However, that's almost an impossibility in our short attention span society, since most people prefer their news in convenient 30-second sound bites and pithy blog-sized chunks of text. The public wants simple solutions to complex issues, not thoughtful discussions. Who has time to read in-depth reporting these days?
Which brings me to the set-up for my next post: what do people really want from our local newspapers and TV news? And is there much future opportunity for journalists in Hawaii?
While we're on the topic, I'd like to hear what you think of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's new venture, CivilBeat.com. They started with a $19.99 per month subscription plan, which was discounted to $4.99 per month, and is now down to 99 cents for a 15 day trial period.
Any CB subscribers out there?
The next new Career Changers TV show airs Thurs., June 3 on OC16. But you can still visit our website for the link to my Squashed Gecko blog, which is about writing and the entertainment biz. No matter what happens with the Advertiser blogs, I'll still be writing something, somewhere!