Whenever the days turn cold and shorter, my thoughts pull relentlessly, like a moon to its planet of orbit, toward the Big Picture. For most of you SLObots, the shiny, happy people who sold out for a family, medical plan, and flat-screen TV, the days are neither cold nor short. But it’s been a couple of months since I last paid my electricity bill, and my underwear has frayed past the point of thong territory, so the days are cold and dark, indeed. And my mind, already whittled to a minimalist nub, escapes its petty daily realities by looking outward.
For too long now, I’ve hid my proverbial light beneath the metaphorical bushel. (New Times being the bushel, and my light being my obvious literary talent.) Fueled by a butterbeer bender—my own top-secret recipe of melted Land-o-Lakes and Corona—and inspired by the courage of one young Harry Potter, I pronounce myself heir and successor to journalism’s media mogul pedestal.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve realized I’m no longer alone. Not while I’m standing on the shoulders of legends like Rupert Murdoch, who are in turn standing on gravestones like William Randolph Hearst’s. Men who understood that trust is essential between the public and its news agency of choice. Men adept at manipulating and violating that trust, all the while pointing the finger down the chain of command.
“I didn’t know the people I hired to run the newspaper I own are phone-hacking scumbags. How could I possibly be expected to keep track of my $7.6 billion media empire?”
Rupert’s been taking some unfair hits lately, mostly from the nutjobs who say his Republican mouthpiece, er, “fair and balanced” news outlet Fox News, leans ever so slightly to the right. You know, like a tipsy but loveable socialite at a wine tasting. All because of a few bloodthirsty calls for Barack Obama’s left testicle after nearly a decade of cheering as George Bush charged headlong into a glass plate foreign policy window like an 18-year-old pledge at a Delta Delta (Sigh) kegger.
Which is why I’ve submitted a formal petition for Rupert to adopt me. I happen to think we could learn a lot from each other. He could learn to love, inasmuch as you can love a middle-aged Jersey Shore addict living in a second-cousin twice-removed’s laundry room. And I could assume the reins of his empire. Who better to revive print than an anonymous columnist—I’m not actually anonymous on purpose, I just keep forgetting to type my name—too stupid and unambitious to even bother bringing an agenda to the table?
Also, I hear M-dawg’s got some serious bob-and-weave moves, the kind of dodgeball Matrix shit that results in a man receiving a holy knighthood from the Catholic church one year before divorcing his second wife, and one year and 17 days before marrying the third. Apparently the only thing the pope takes more seriously than holy matrimony is the sanctimonious union of his lips and Murdoch’s ass.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Murdoch emerges from the fray completely unscathed. I’m the kind of reporter who inspires people to fling raw sewage, and that’s when I’m just walking down the street. But Murdoch? He’ll walk. Or possibly shuffle with the aid of a diamond-encrusted walker. In all likelihood, the real victim in all of this will be print journalism, and the thousands of underpaid, over-abused journalists who have sacrificed youth, retirement accounts, and the respect of their peers in order to give you knuckleheads a first-hand account of the most recent sewer brawl in Los Osos, all the while … sorry, I may have gotten a little carried away there. I pray for peace in Los Osos; it’s just above my plea for an end to the violence in the Middle East.
My point is, newspapers have taken enough hits in recent years without cocky, hypocritical billionaires ripping away our final shred of self-respect like an overdue bikini wax. Print journalism, and perhaps news reporting in general, is going the way of the dodo bird. If you don’t believe me, just ask Cal Poly’s journalism department, which is loudly shouting fire into classrooms full of bright-eyed would-be journalists.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” they ask during the Cal Poly sorting, sitting each incoming freshman on their strong, academic knees.
“I want to be a journalist and write stories about corruption and keep the people in power on their toes ... Ouch! Did you just smack me on the head with an AP stylebook?”
“Grow up, kid. There are no reporters anymore. Just people with money and the bottomfeeders they pay to write what they tell them to. And if you work hard enough now, shine your shoes, grease your hair, you too can be a bottomfeeder.”
“But what about the New York T …?”
“Get your head out of the clouds. Those days are over. Now, your assignment tonight is to Tweet a background on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And update your Facebook status while you’re at it. It’s been six hours since that post about Angelina Jolie’s post-coffee bowel movement.”
Godspeed to you youthful, would-be journalists. You’ve got just about everything working against you and no one to look up to. And if I catch one of you lurking around the office sniffing after my job, Rupert will blacklist you so fast it’ll make your head spin.
The Shredder’s hoping to be Rupert Murdoch’s fourth blushing bride. Send veils and toasts to firstname.lastname@example.org.