The tectonic plates of how we get our news are shifting. Fast.
And once again I've been left in the dust, a day late, a dollar short, a Luddite (guys in England who fought the Industrial Revolution, and, well, you know how that worked out).
When I look around my small group of family and friends, I'm shocked that I'm the only one left who turns on the news first thing in the morning, checks in throughout the day, and finishes up with the evening opinion shows.
This makes me an oddball, a weird duck, the skunk at the garden party. As a rare newsroom conservative for many years, I'm used to being strange. (I can count the conservative journalists I worked with on one hand.) One time, when I mentioned a feature I saw on Public Television to a liberal coworker, he looked at me with pity and said, “I read books.” (I do, too. Honest.)
All summer I spend five days a week at my cabin (no TV, no internet), then two days at home. At home, when I turn on the TV news, my wife tells me, “I haven't had the news on once while you were gone.”
(Well, pin a rose.)
A newspaper reader for years, she now gets what she needs to know on her computer and phone, and often knows things before I do. She was on me like a duck on a June bug to cancel our local newspaper, which we did last year. And now, when she seizes custody of the remote control, she switches to her favorite veterinary show. And sooner or later, Dr. Pol slips on a shoulder-length plastic glove and is up to his biceps in the south end of a cow. Try watching that over lunch at the kitchen table.
I understand the frustrations of television. If I've seen the pillow guy talking to that couple through their medicine cabinet once, I've seen it 200 times. My concept of Hell is the pillow guy yelling endlessly about pillows, sheets and “Giza cotton.”
Everyone is talking as fast as they can on television these days, and many times they're all talking at once. And the irritating ads are louder than the shows.
My oldest friend – we met 54 years ago on an eighth floor hallway at Orr Hall - patiently informed me last summer that if I brought up anything I heard on the news, he wouldn't know anything about it, because he doesn't listen to the news anymore. (There's a conversation stopper.) He's a brilliant guy, but he's sick to death of the constant drumbeat of breathless, repetitive “alerts” and “breaking news.” He has a dim view of most reporters, not believing a word they say.
This guy was once in the news biz, but these days he says he learns more scanning personal stories on YouTube than anything he could glean from mainstream media.
Does he subscribe to the local paper we both once worked for? Of course not.
We have a retired editor friend who no longer takes the paper he once edited, and only subscribes to the on-line version of the “Wall Street Journal.” When the three of us get together, we drink Pabst and shake our heads at what has become of the news business.
And then there's my daughter - busy as hell keeping up with a two and a four-year-old - who tries to limit the family screen time as much as possible. But she made an exception for Tucker Carlson's show on Fox in the evening.
“That's it!” she texted last week when Carlson was fired with no explanation. “I've had it with television news,” she wrote, adding that the reporters make every story as over the top as possible to attract viewers and gin up controversy.
So I remain the hopeless Luddite, who still checks out the news on TV, and tends to leave it on much of the day, in case some big newsworthy event “breaks.”
I can't help it. The news biz put food on our table for 50 years.
Old habits die hard, this one probably the hardest of all.