Today’s Washington Post may be a weather map to the perfect storm that has hit America.
Upper left: A story about how the government been robbing Peter (in this case climate research) to pay Paul (Mars, bitches!, etc.). I mean screw figuring out what’s wrong with the house we live in, let’s daydream about a trip to Australia by car!
Upper middle: A digital day in the life. I’m always amazed at how amazed professional, top-tier reporters can be amazed by things I’ve known about for months if not years. I’ve ceased to be amazed at their inability to make the leap necessary to take the story from the obvious (e.g., the phone company has tracked phone calls ever since it began charging money for it, i.e., forever) to deeper understanding (it’s the low cost of storage, the consolidation of data, the mining of data, the “national security” backdoors that are so ineptly constructed that they leave portals into people’s lives that a script kiddie could drive a black ice Hummer through that really matter, not that suddenly that we notice how much of our lives occur in public).
Upper right: Bush says after years of running the budget into the ground with a compliant, Republican-run (but I repeat myself) Congress, it’s now up to the new Democratic-run (barely in one house, lest we forget) Congress to change his diaper, clean his backside, exchange any clothing soiled by his excesses, and, for good measure, prevent any further blowouts–all while letting him run amok in Iraq and at home. He needs the Hannibal Lecter handtruck treatment.
Right side, second story: It seems the Iraqi “government” still can’t hold a lynching without screwing something up. Here’s a first step to not embarrassing yourself while hanging people: Stop hanging people. At least bring back the hooded, muscled man with the scimitar and give the beheadings a bit more grandeur, people. Or maybe something more civilized, like not rushing headlong to kill anyone and making sure not only that you have had a fair trial, but fair punishment as well.
Right side, third story: Yes, folks, it’s been five years since the first person was hauled to Gitmo from far off lands, possibly never to return, face anything resembling a fair trial, or otherwise leave the hell on earth America has built next to the Communist Paradise of the West.
And at the lower left: Ladies and gentlemen, one of the things the Post does pretty well, packing a lot of localish crap into a single story on A1. If you’ve driven around here and had to stop for anything other than gas, chances are you got a parking ticket. Along with specious moving violations and other draconian non-moving offenses, this has got to be one of the top revenue sources for local governments in the region.
Metro: Martin Luther King? Look in Metro. He’s not A1 material anymore. Yesterday’s news. Beyond that, today’s Metro section is a prime example of the Post‘s attitudes of “eff local, we don’t need no stinkin’ suburbs” and “Virginia uber alles” (the second prevails if there’s a conflict). Would it have killed them to put a Maryland story on A1 in the Maryland Edition instead of the Virginia parking ticket pastiche? Maybe the big school construction thing? But of course, anyone reading a newspaper is too old to have kids, or too smart to live in Maryland or D.C.
Business: Golly gee, a mirror that has a Web cam and can display IMs. Alert Steve Jobs. (See earlier snark about journalists and technology.) Why the hell, other than the huge monetary impact it has on Big Pharma, is the BioShield (government preparedness for bio-attack) story here? There isn’t even a business mentioned on the section front. Look honey, a navel-gazing newspaper business story (tip to readers: stick to Editor and Publisher, they have a clue about the business without being mired in it), and something about a hotel magnate blogging. Business sections after holidays suck even worse than usual, because that’s when the reporters pretend they’re with the Style section and (usually–there are some fine business writers around, including some at the Post) show why they aren’t.
Sports: Apparently the Sports section’s recipe for survival is 1 part game recap and stats anyone with an Internet connection could have read for 8-16 hours + 2 parts columnists, half panderers and half shockers, + some graphics and agate, most of which has again been available, free, online to anyone interested enough to look for it, plus lots of TV time for Tony “I’ll make you miss Dennis Miller” Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon. I sometimes think the only people who read agate are non-stats freaks following out of town teams.
Health: Decent article on warm-winter caused allergies inside aside, the rest is middling to poor.
Style: Finally, something I’m at an absolute loss for explaining: Yet again, the Style section is far more relevant and important, e.g. today’s coverage of the Appeal for Redress movement, than the “news” sections of the newspaper. Hell, it even does a good job with congressional representation for D.C. But it’s the Style section. The writers, while one of the finest Style section stables in the land, are constrained by the section itself: snappy, scrappy writing in the space allowed by all the Kids Post, funnies, puzzles (not that, heaven forfend, I am advocating a reduction in those three; they are probably the best parts of the paper day in and day out), celebrity trash, television, music, theater, quirky crap and all the other things that help the Style section speak to people with too much free time, free money or both (those latter could be abolished without much crying from me).
So there you have it: Passing of the buck on a monumental scale, not that the story would lead you to any such conclusion; a story far too clueless for consumption in what may be one of the best informed, technologically adept metro areas in the nation; national embarrassment; MLK relegated to Metro because that was yesterday, just like your civil rights; traffic tickets! (please ignore our paltry Metro coverage); well, we have the dysfunctional, blame-everyone-else CEO president, why not cover government in the Business pages; Marriott blogs!; sports is life, Sports section is irrelevant; Style’s got at least two stories that should be on the front page of the paper, much less given the Leeza-Gibbons-in-print treatment. And it’s still a top ten American newspaper, no doubt.