The Costs of Record-Breaking Journalism

CVS stuff!

When your most prominent product makes your business “essential” and no one’s bullying you into refusing to sell non-essentials.

I’m generally happy to pay for journalism. I believe a free and fully functional press is a critical component to the structural integrity and ethics of any given country, state, and city. Local journalists in particular can cover topics too far below the radar of the numerous nationwide organizations out there. As a staunch anti-partisan who thinks extremely little of our feud-fueled political system, I don’t need to agree with every journalist’s tribal allegiance as long as I can discern either some capital-N News or some genuinely informed insights in their offerings. It helps that I tend to skim past the Opinions section and refuse to read the letters from readers unless they’re from someone I recognize, which so far this century has happened once (congrats to one of my wife’s cousins for that feat).

I’m old-fashioned enough to have a subscription to our local daily paper, the Indianapolis Star. A traditional seven-day subscription seemed a bit much, so I have a scaled-back subscription that requires one of their few remaining physical carriers to deliver a print-edition paper to our mailbox only on Sundays and Thursdays. Over the years the Thursday paper has turned slimline and provides me five minutes of preoccupation at most, but the Sunday paper remains their heftiest, with expanded content such as longform investigative pieces, restaurant news/reviews, faith-related essays, the starving remnants of the once-useful classifieds, retailer advertising inserts, grocery coupons, and four pages of Sunday comic strips in color. Longtime MCC readers can guess which section gets sorted to the top of my reading pile.

The Star shocked me three times this past weekend. Under the terms of the interim normal, two of those shocks were sorrowful but explainable. The third is debatable.

Continue reading

Oscar Quest 2018: “The Post”

The Post!

“By all means,. do go on with your precious newsplaining.”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1997 to the present. As of February 21st I’ve officially seen all nine of this year’s Best Picture nominees. I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover the other seven in full before the Oscars telecast on March 4th, but let’s see how far I can get before I burn out.

Onward to nominee #4, Steven Spielberg’s The Post. With multiple Oscar honorees Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in the marquee, this based-on-a-true-story salute to American journalism in the face of government malfeasance is one of the more old-fashioned films in the race, wielding a confluence of history and star power in the name of attempted topical relevance.

Continue reading

Behold the Future of Chicago Sun-Times Photojournalism

Marvel NOW!, C2E2 2013Hardly an award-winning pic, is it?

When I attended the “Marvel: From NOW! to Infinity” panel at C2E2 last April, I arrived late from another panel and found myself in the back row. I thought covering the panel from an amateur perspective might be a fun lark for one segment of the MCC readership. Unfortunately I back-burnered that part of my C2E2 experience because (a) pro comics-news sites had the panel’s announcements posted online days before I would’ve gotten around to them; and (b) my photos were rubbish.

I’d rather not imagine a world in which I might’ve had a chance of selling this reject for real American money. I enjoy seeing the work of skillful eyes and hands that justly shame me in this area. I doubt few dream of a world in which our news sites and newspapers drop several degrees in visual competence and settle for publishing any available photos to accompany their articles regardless of quality, offering whatever they can scrounge up from overworked reporters or untrained bystanders.

The Powers That Be at the Chicago Sun-Times believe so deeply in this alternate future that they’ve decided to push our timeline forward in that direction. Last week numerous sources reported the venerable institution dismissed all 28 of its staff photographers (including one Pulitzer winner) as a cost-cutting measure and announced plans to offer smartphone photography lessons to its staff reporters, who clearly had too much time on their hands and needed extra busywork to keep them from turning into total goof-offs.

Continue reading

Chairs: the Silent, Comfy Killer (and other scandalous forms of filler)

My wife and I are still old-school enough that we still have the newspaper delivered twice a week. The Sunday edition of the Indianapolis Star has grocery coupons, occasionally meaty stories of local interest, and Bill Amend’s FoxTrot. The Thursday edition has a weekly section with a few pages focusing on our side of Indianapolis, a thorough list of indie films opening Friday in large cities that will never see the light of day in Indy, and the wicked insight of the current bearer of the proud Miss Manners mantle.

The Sunday paper is still the heaviest newspaper of the week, but once I’ve finished perusing the worthwhile parts, the bulk of it doesn’t take long to plow through. I don’t shop through the classifieds. I don’t like sports. Their home decorating tips are for nicer houses and neighborhoods than ours. Letters from readers are partisan overreactions of gut feeling without the burden of spending five minutes researching their topic first. And the Procter & Gamble coupons always offer chintzy discounts on the same dozen overpriced products our household never uses.

Most quickly skipped are the two or three pages buried in the back of the lead section that cover recent college science studies. Usually they’re finds and results along the lines of “Study Concludes Too Much Coffee Ruins Sleep” or “Scientists Declare Coffee Drinkers Live Longer” or “Purdue Team Says Coffee Causes Tusk Cancer in Narwhals” or “Statistics Prove Coffee Improves Navel Lint Production” or “Survey Shows Coffee Causes Unnecessary Medical Surveys”. Those add little to my life and consequently receive not even the courtesy of a five-second skimming.

I always figured such pieces were a subtle form of space-filler between back-section ads. However, I was surprised to run across an online article of the same variety. Apparently, employees who sit down a lot are more likely to be sedentary and die more quickly that average:

“All-cause mortality increased as BMI increased from normal weight to overweight to obese (5.0, 6.8, and 9.4 deaths/1000 person-years, respectively). The trend was similar for CV/metabolic disease mortality (1.8, 2.8, and 4.4 deaths/1000 person-years, respectively). After adjusting for BMI and other variables (light and hard exercise, education, sex, general health, smoking status, and cardiac disease), sedentary work was associated with higher all-cause mortality and cardiac/metabolic disease mortality compared with occupations with significant walking, significant walking or lifting, or heavy physical labor.”

The conclusion reached through the miracle of science: somehow, non-exercise doesn’t give us the exercise we need to live.

Even more stunning: the article egregiously fails to warn me that I’m killing myself slowly through the mere act of sitting here, reading that article, and then typing about it. I don’t even have to be at work to place myself at risk. (And YOU, the Viewers at Home: unless you’re jogging and reading this on your cell phone at the same time, I’m enabling your own descent into the abyss. Dreadful sorry about that.) Sure, my fingers will stay healthy, but mere digits cannot support an entire arterial network on their own. Alas, if only they could. Perhaps college science should find a way to make that happen. Until that transcendent day, the lives of millions of cubicle dwellers and Internet denizens hang in the balance.

Really, though, I’m not sure how this merited posting online. Most websites don’t have space to fill, do they? At least I have an excuse: I’m distracted by the need to prepare for our road trip this weekend and should be doing other things right now. I doubt the purveyors of that special report on can say the same. If they can, awesome. I look forward to swapping Superman Celebration memories with them in person. Perhaps we should make a point of jogging in place while we share.

%d bloggers like this: