I have a moral dilemma that I’m hoping you’ll help me resolve. Last week I got a peek at former KCOY weatherman Jim Byrne’s diary. At least, I’m pretty sure it was his. Don’t tell anyone, but we get together a couple of times each month to dish about the grind and glory of working in the media, and, of course, to compare hair. And now I’m in a quandary over whether to print what I found. Sure, I owe him some allegiance as a friend, but what about my obligation to the public as a professional secret teller—er, journalist? Even one who makes stuff up?
In the end, my responsibility to the public won out—as it always does when there’s little to no chance that the public’s interest will conflict with my own. I rationalized that Jim would understand; he appreciates the allure of sweet, sweet, salacious gossip better than most.
“Dear Diary, Forecast for today: sad with a solid chance of beef stroganoff for dinner. Forecast for the rest of the week: anxious with a questionable chance of euphoria depending on how the 49ers perform.”
It’s rough seeing him like that.
And it’s rough knowing that Byrne is far from alone. On Jan. 4, KCOY laid off a dozen members of its news team. I don’t mean to poke fun at Byrne or any of the now unemployed KCOY team. Quite the opposite, in fact. My shriveled heart goes out to them. Cross-media competitor or not, it’s tough out there, and most of us in this industry are secretly wondering if we’ll be next.
Byrne’s dilemma illustrates the plight of the entire industry. The organizations that gather and deliver your news are struggling, and the sinking ship we’ve all been clinging to is starting to feel like a dinghy. Byrne’s fate is a harbinger of things to come, and you should be scared. In case you aren’t, I’m going to tell you a little story that will have you weeing yourself all the way home.
There are reports of people calling themselves the “Environmental Safety Alliance” robo-calling locals in their own homes with messages decrying the evils of cloth bags. When asked to identify themselves, people affiliated with the vague—and, well, ridiculous—message got very quiet on the subject of who was bankrolling the endeavor. I don’t know about you, but I was taught that the first and most common rule of phone courtesy was to identify yourself when calling someone. That rule was drummed into me as a child, which made my heavy panting phase pretty awkward and short lived.
If I had to guess, I’d bet my last plastic bag— they’re going to be valuable soon, like American Roadshow valuable—that plastics manufacturers have something to do with the message from one Dr. Robert Johnson, who has all the tell-tale signs of a paid corporate stooge, but that’s just my interpretation because no one’s showing their cards in this game. Johnson is, to quote Scrubs’ Dr. Cox, “a doctor like Dr. Pepper is a doctor.” He’s spouting theories that cloth bags harbor bacteria, but his doctorate is in musical history, which isn’t the type of credential I’d cough and bend over for.
Then COLAB decided to wade into the debate. An incoming message from COLAB about the environment? I’m predicting stupid with a heavy chance of wanton disregard for the environment.
See? Predicting the weather, as well as people’s behavioral patterns, is fun and easy. So how did they weigh in on the issue in their newsletter? Pretty much exactly the way you’d expect: “Remember that this is yet another symbolic feel-good enviro-socialist assault on common sense,” they warned. “Also remember that beginning in September, 2012, if the ban is approved, you will be required to buy, maintain, and always carry the manufactured reusable bags. If you forget your reusable bag, the store will be required to charge ten cents for each ‘recyclable’ paper bag.”
GASP! TEN WHOLE CENTS! That’s one-fortieth the cost of my morning cup of coffee! And one-six hundred thousandth the cost of my Beemer! All to save the environment?!? God made the environment especially for me, and I’ll do exactly what I like with it, starting with strangling it with this here plastic bag. I did that with my favorite hooker pal Tigger LaRouthe with pretty fantastic results.
I think the important thing to remember here is the fact that removing tens of thousands of plastic bags from the environment is purely “symbolic.” I said the same thing as I was clubbing the last eastern hare wallaby to death with a nine iron.
“Stop screaming, you wascally wallaby!” I ordered. “This is just a symbolic anti-enviro-socialist assault!”
The term “endangered” has always seemed like a cop-out to me. You’re not actually extinct, so what are you boo-hooing about? Wait until you’ve gone the way of the broad-faced potoroo (declared extinct in Australia in 1875), or the pig-footed bandicoot (1950s, also in Australia), the bulldog rat (1903, Christmas Island), or the North American journalist (last seen around the summer of 2011), or the Eastern cougar, which had the good sense to die off in the Eastern United States last year, a few months before the blithering politicos invaded the nation’s swing states with their inoffensive ties and highly offensive rhetoric. Then you can come talk to me about your various hardships.
Shredder was last seen hopping across Higuera sans pants. Send skinny jeans to email@example.com.