Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Value INSIDE a College Education

Two MAJOR things have changed since the first time I went to college (circa 1986-88) and the current (2009-present):

1) 19-year-old women look better; and
2) The Degree Progress Report, or DPR.

Damn, I love the DPR. All due respect to you 19-year-old ladies, but the DPR kicks ass. It’s a simple, easy-to-follow, hyper-detailed list-out of all the classes you’ve taken, and more importantly, just which requirements they fill as you matriculate through university. Which caused me to ponder…

Just what are these requirements? What do they mean? Why are they important? Or not? Is it a measure of general knowledge? Specific? Something to keep a chair warmed for a tenured professor at a diploma mill? What, huh, what?

So whereas there have already been 153,000 articles about the value of a college education and how it might affect your earning power down the road, here’s one about the value inside a college education—what you might be getting out of it, knowledge-wise. And stuff.

Please be advised, these are the requirements for a Journalism major at California State University, Northridge. I assume it’s the same throughout the Cal State system—someone at Fresno, please put up your hand and tell me if that’s so.

(And for the nosy peeps among you, my cumulative GPA thus far: 3.15. Could be worse, I guess.)

Away we go.

• Basic Skills Requirement, Analytical Reading and Expository Writing (need 3 credits): Makes sense I guess, and a good use of three credits. You gotta read and write, right?

• Basic Skills Requirement, Critical Thinking (need 3 credits): Take it from an old fart, this is a new one. And it seems to be a point of emphasis. They wanna teach you how to detect you’re being brainwashed by Fox News before you forget everything you learned and actually get brainwashed by Fox News. I took a Philosophy course called Logic in Practice. I liked it. And again, it seemed a good expenditure of three credits—just remember!

• Basic Skills Requirement, Mathematics (need 3 credits): Okay. I guess Cal State is interested in making sure you can balance a checkbook. Three credits = fine in my book.

• Basic Skills Requirement, Oral Communication (need 3 credits): Again, relatively new. Back in ye caveman days, university didn’t care if you could speak, only if you could club a wooly mammoth. This is okay (tho’ it looks like I wasted three credits on Mammoth-Clubbing 110 back in the day).

• Natural Sciences Requirement (need 8 credits, 2 of which must be lab): This one’s gonna stick in my craw, as it looks like I have to dig out a University of Minnesota-Duluth syllabus from Ideas in Chemistry, ’87. I think I had a lab as part of that. Anyhoo, I’ll be frank: Unless you’re going into the hard sciences, ANY damn lab you’re taking with these classes has all the functionality, practical application, and difficulty level of something you’ll see on a two-minute bumper on PBS. Seriously, do the baking powder volcano with a six-year-old, and you’re cool.

I get that a scientific background is important and maybe some hands-on is cool, but this is splitting hairs. Really. You’ll get more out of a 45-minute Home Depot Do-it-Yourself workshop than you will out of a Physics 101 lab. Honestly. I wouldn’t mind taking two credits in woodshop instead. This is a minor waste.

• Arts and Humanities Requirement (need 7 credits): Humanities. Jazz Studies. Philosophy. Etcetera. Goes towards that wonderful “making you a more well-rounded person.” Okay.

• Social Science Requirement (need 7 credits): Geography. Politics. Government. Knowledge of the world around you and its institutions. Okay.

• Lifelong Learning Requirement (need 3 credits): Something where you build a framework, and it stays with you throughout life. I took Business Ethics. Criminey, three credits here seems too few. I mean, when I’m 64, what am I gonna need more? An ethical framework with which to conduct my life, or the fact that the acceleration due to gravity is 9.80 meters/second squared? Here’s one where they could err on the side of adding.

Now take a deep breath for…

• Comparative Cultural Studies/Gender, Race, Class, Ethnicity Studies and Foreign Language (need 9 credits): Put more callously, “Nine credits of political correctness.” Put more optimistically, “Nine credits of understanding that you’re not the center of the universe, and building empathy for others.”

Okay, maybe it’s because I’m 42 creaking years old and have some wear on my moccasins, but I think the last thing I need at this stage of my life is nine credits of “getting” that there are people on Earth other than 42-creaking-years-old fat drunken Micks like me. Then again, maybe if they had “Irish Drinking and Fist-Fighting 101” I could take for three credits, I’d be happier. I would totally ace that class.

Other side of the coin: Yeah, if you’re a freshly scrubbed 18-year-old just off the bus from Pampered Second-Tier Suburb, USA, you might need more understanding of these topics than you get on the wash tag of a G-Unit hoodie.

Regardless, my gut does tell me this is a tad overkillish, and a small evidence of the institutionalized political correctness that I think most would agree permeates academia. Can we just agree on six credits, please? Or, here’s a couple cool/radical ideas:

Radical Idea the First: If you’ve lived in L.A., Noo Yawk, Miami, Dallas, or any other similarly cosmopolitan and (Oh, cripes! WARNING: Politically correct term ahead!) “ethnically diverse” community for at least five years, you get an automatic three credits. SERIOUSLY, don’t we agree that one walking trip down a four-mile stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard will teach you more than African-American Studies 101? Really. I think so.

Radical Idea the Second: Or if you are Mr./Ms. freshly scrubbed 18-year-old just off the bus from Pampered Second-Tier Suburb, USA, you get three auto-credits if you take one quarter’s night classes at L.A.’s Locke, Crenshaw, Garfield or Roosevelt High Schools. Hell, throw in Venice. I like Venice. Again, I truly believe this will teach you more than Fill-In-The-Ethnicity 101.

• General Education Upper Division (need 9 credits): Pretty much anything, but higher level classes. Can also be used to fill other requirements. I’m okay with it.

• Basic Skills Information Competence (need 3 credits): Not sure what this means, but looks like my Oral Communication took care of this, too. Yay, me.

• Subject Explorations Information Competence (need 3 credits): I think this is the upper-division version of immediate above.

• Title 5 American History and Government (need 3 credits EACH in American History, Institutions and Ideals; U.S. Constitution; and California State and Local Government): So nine credits total so you get how gub’ment works, three of those state-focused. Seems okay.

• Upper and Lower Division Writing Requirements: Two times, a Saturday-morning one-off test kinda thing. Eh. Seems to me you’re kinda doing that in every last class you take. But someone’s gotta keep the Proctor’s Union happy.

• 37 Credits in my Major (Journalism): Well, of 120 total, I guess that kinda makes sense. It’s a specialized program, as any major quote-unquote “should be,” right?

(And kudos here to the Cal State system, as I may have both roasted a pound of their flesh up above, AND I believe this to be true: I applaud you for the undergrad Journalism major. Most schools have it only as a Graduate program, and kinda sub in a catch-all “Communications” major that kinda-sorta encompasses journalism. I appreciate that you go the extra mile into a J-school program.)

So what have we learned today? Well, that 19-year-olds somehow got hotter. That the DPR is our friend. And that there are lotsa little cubby-holes inside that 120-credit Big Burrito called “diploma.”

On the measure, I’m surprised to see that Academia Assembled does a half-ass decent job of categorizing out stuff that “matters.” I daresay if you were to give me the proverbial Blank Sheet o’ Paper and ask me to design McLauchlin U (home of the Fightin’ Drunk Micks!), I’d likely arrive at about 80% of what my DPR shows. A tweak here, a tweak there…but all in all, it’s pretty good.

Now will someone from my old Ideas in Chemistry class please send me a copy of that Spring, 1987 syllabus?

Jim McLauchlin

Next: I dunno. Sumpthin’.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Free Markets are Great! We Just Need Government Regulation!"

Nicole Gelinas wrote an interesting op-ed piece in the Oct. 24 Los Angeles Times (that may well have popped up in other venues as well) about how "too big to fail" is an idea that ultimately fails—we need to let bad banks die, let foreclosures foreclose, and ultimately quit weighing down any economic recovery with the albatross of bad business and well-meaning "hey, you can keep your house."

I do find a bit of the intellectual lie in it, however, as Gelinas seems to call for the "rule of law and free markets" (even calling that "the nation's priceless assets"), yet of course wants big, bad gub'ment to swing the hammer. The writer seems to call for lassiez faire and swaddling regulation at the same time.

I think pieces like this show that we are in a post-liberal, post-conservative, post-ideological society, even though we refuse to recognize or admit it. Most political "discussion" has been hijacked by the "let's put two opposing views on split-screen and have them yell at each other" school of TV. We are led to believe that we must be a Tea Partier or a Sanity Restorer, and there is no middle ground. Further, we are led to believe that two (seemingly) opposing views cannot peacefully coexist. This author seems to call for exactly two ideological opposites working hand in hand, tho' interestingly, I would surmise one after the other: Big bad gub'ment swings the hammer first, so that the priceless rule of law and free markets can flourish.

Not sure if I agree with any of this article or not. But it is thought-provoking, food for thought that requires some digestion. But the larger issue just might not be banks, foreclosures, free markets or any of that—it might be how we approach these issues and solve problems in what might be our post-ideological society.

Jim McLauchlin

Next: Still not sure. Will think of something. I have paying work, ya know!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When I am King of the World

When I am King of the World…

Any names that make you sound like you’re named after a pharmaceutical company or a video game will be stricken. Therefore, Plaxico Burress and Atari Bigbee will need to be re-named. All replacement names will be of former ABA players, and if that means we wind up with multiple Ticky Burdens or Dave Twardziks, so be it.

Singers won’t be allowed to act; nor actors to sing. Pick one, and stick to it.

There will be a STRICT four-penny limit on the "take a penny, leave a penny" tray. I mean, after four, you're dealing with nickels, not pennies.

U.S. citizenship will be open to anyone who is willing to wait in line for two days at a DMV and sing “The Oscar Meyer Weiner Song.” But you only get one shot at the song, and you have to get all the lyrics right.

The national anthem will change every four years, coinciding with midterm Congressional elections. We’ll start off with the theme from Shaft as performed by Sammy Davis Jr., and put it to an electoral process after that.

If anyone EVER identifies themselves as being affiliated with ANY “reality TV show” (i.e. “I’m Bob from Survivor.”), you are legally allowed to punch them square in the nuts.

Remember how the Arkansas Razorback used to be cool when it was the GIANT logo on the floor of their basketball court? Well, now everyone’s got a giant logo. Screw that. They all gotta go back to normal-sized logos—except Arkansas. They keep the giant Razorback.

All golf courses (save one) will be immediately replaced with giant bakeries. Every day, everyone will get fresh donuts delivered to their doorstep, just like the newspaper. As corollaries…
• All people freaking out over losing all those golf-oriented jobs need not worry. Those jobs will be converted to bakery and delivery jobs.
• The ONE golf course left will have a once-yearly tournament with nothing but guys in college mascot costumes, just like those cool Capital One College Mascot Tournament commercials.
• The Syracuse Orange will NOT be allowed to participate.
• Tiger Woods, I guess, will have to go get a real job.

Economic stimulus package #1: We take that giant bull on Wall Street and make it coin-operated! 25 cents, you get to ride it for a minute.

Economic stimulus package #2: Free chili fries every Thursday!

Units of measurement that really aren’t official but that I think sound cool are now official. Therefore “nigh on to a mile” is now officially a mile, no matter how close/far that “nigh on” is. And we’ll measure short distances in ax handles. Example: “Man, that chick has a big butt! Her ass is two ax handles wide!”

Jim McLauchlin

Next: Not sure. I'll think of sumpthin'.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fake care is so easy, cool, and replaces the real thing (with none of the benefit)

It’s not impossible to find wisdom on Twitter. But it’s probably easier to find the opposite of wisdom…which can still provide insight. Thereby making it wisdom, in a way. Funny, that.

It is with this in mind that I hearken back to The Tweet I’ll Never Forget. It was on about June 2009, when a slightly artsy-fartsy guy I know chose to share the following with the world on a Sunday morning:

“It’s a beautiful morning in San Francisco. But my thoughts go out to the brave people of Iran.”

And yeah, his little Twitter avatar pic was tinted green. In fact, a lot of people’s Twitter avatars were tinted green.

So…what was behind all this? Well, at the time, Iran was in the midst of a rather contentions electoral process. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his ruling Abadgaran party were facing a stiff challenge from an upstart party. Amid accusations of election fraud, there were riots in the streets of Tehran. As the Iranian army repelled said riots, a woman was famously shot and bled to death in the street, becoming a YouTube sensation.

And just like we kinda-sorta have blue for Democrats and red for Republicans in the USA, the color of the Iranian opposition party was green. It became cool to Twitter-ify yourself green; a little show of support for the brave upstarts half a world away.

And the feeling I got off it was so damn faux, it made me wanna puke.

It smelled like a fashion thing, something the cool, avant-garde kids do to look like they care, and/or have read a newspaper (see also: Toyota Prius). Now I can’t prove that. Maybe it came from a genuine feeling. But if so, so what? What can a green avatar do?

Some would argue that it does do something. I’d like to hear that argument. Please, convince me. My mind is open, and I’d love to be turned around on this one. I’d really like to see some empirical evidence backing it up, too.

But I fear that my gut instinct is true. I fear it means nothing. And here’s the danger of the green avatar, or any of its other pseudo- cousins:

I believe we live now in a time and place where we’ve created too many goddamn easy outs where people can do things of NO tangible benefit to anyone…and that’s largely replaced REAL action. We fulfill our very legitimate human need to help others with empty motions. It’s methadone for the soul. You feel like you’ve done something for someone in need, but find that someone in need and ask them: What have you done? Did your green avatar bring about Iranian democracy? Did the fact that you “like” the United Way on Facebook put a warm spot in someone’s belly on skid row? Ask that Iranian. Ask that homeless man. I’d wager their answer is “no.”

Now these things—your green avatars and Facebook likes--may be well-intentioned. I certainly believe that’s the case. They likely do no harm. But they also likely do no real good. Not to turn this into a simple screed against that system of vacuum tubes Al Gore invented for us called the “Interwebs,” but back in ye olden days, if somebody had a let’s-call-it-charitable-inkling to fill, they filled it by doing something. They volunteered, or they cracked open the checkbook and scratched one out. And in doing that, something was, indeed, accomplished. It might have been small. It might have seemed infinitesimal. But that volunteer work—please take note of the dirty word “work”— or that check going into the coffers…it was real.

Now we have no idea, no cultural context, no track record, for the effect of a green Tweet or a Facebook “like.” Maybe future historians will see the effect of these things, and point to it as the blooming of a thousand flowers and the dawn of a golden age. Maybe.

But in the here-and-now, take a look, Tweeters: The green avatars are gone. Ahmadinejad is still in power—legitimately or not, I cannot say. The woman is still dead. What did your green avatar do? And WHY did you get rid of it? Did the fashion thing wear off? Did you suddenly just not care, even though, well, the status quo is still the status quo?

Ask yourself those questions. And next time you feel like turning your Twitter avatar green, do me a favor: Don’t. Do something else instead. Volunteer one damn hour at the Salvation Army soup kitchen. Give one damn dollar to the United Way. Your green avatar is gone. But if you actually did something instead, congrats! You did something. You created. You had impact. In that one hour at the Salvation Army, a homeless man ate. That $1 helped some poor family put a tarp over their heads come next tornado. You changed the world. Again, perhaps in a small way, perhaps infinitesimally. But, I would wager, more than a green avatar ever did.

You are one person. You can make one small change. Will the world do it? I doubt it. Because fake care is so easy, cool, and replaces the real thing (with none of the benefit).

Jim McLauchlin

Next: I lighten the mood. Promise.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lying is so prevalent in our culture, that you've come to totally accept it

Here's the thing. You are so totally used to people telling bold-faced lies right to cameras, microphones, grand juries, spouses, the cops, reporters, occasional Heisman Trophy Trusts and whatever else, that you've become, alas, totally inured to it. You just don't care anymore. You totally accept lying. And that's a sad thing.

We'll attempt to look at this through the prism of sports only, as it is the "toy department" of life in many ways. Hell, look at the bold-face lying in legislative and governmental walks of life—where the stakes and impact on your life are undoubtedly higher, tho' you might not realize that as you're watching the Raiders game—and you might be tempted to jump off a building. Or push someone off one if you're a Raiders fan.

Anyhoo, journey with us back to Tuesday, August 3, 2010, in scenic Hattiesburg, Miss. Intrepid ESPN reporter Ed Werder has drawn the short straw, and he's on Favre watch, as on-again/off-again is-he-retired-or-not quarterback Brett Favre is going through his yearly toss-and-turn as to if he'll play another season or not. The story is hot. It's been reported by multiple sources that Favre, 40 years old and rebounding from off-season ankle surgery, has sent multiple text messages to Minnesota Vikings players and front-office personnel stating that he's retired for good.

There's one reason these multiple reports of multiple texts exist: Because the multiple texts happened. They happened. When you get that much back-channel static, it's there for one reason—it happened. There is no such thing as an absolute secret, and no one can keep the lid on this, will to do so be damned. Please make no mistake: Favre sent these text messages to Vikings players and personnel.

And one guy flubbed up and showed us that smoking gun: Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Though Shiancoe received no direct messages himself, several teammates told him they did. Shiancoe was the ONE Viking on the record as saying these texts existed. He innocently and erroneously broke the code of "sources say" and "all indications are," and in that, provided us the much-needed smoking gun.

Enter Ed Werder, microphone in hand, mustache on lip. As Favre left practice at a Hattiesburg high school where he'd been working out with the local team, Werder cornered Favre in the cab of his Ford F-250 with a reeeeeaaaaalllly loud diesel engine. Werder asked Favre if he was retiring or not. Favre was still noncommittal. Werder asked Favre about sending text messages "indicating that you would be retiring" to the Vikings. Favre said no such texts were sent.

"Visanthe says you did," Werder countered.

"Aw, Shank. That's why I love ’im," replied the good-ol' boy quarterback.

Quick recap: Favre denies sending the text (lies). Werder confronts him with a corroborating source (one of Favre's teammates). Favre deflects, and drives away.

Now I really feel bad for Ed Werder at this point. Really. He's in the unwinnable situation; a Kobayashi Maru of footballian proportions. He's done his job. He's asked-and-answered. And he's been lied to, point-blank and to his face. And he let it go.

Again, I feel for Ed Werder. But what else could he do? Ask again? Say, "C'mon, Brett. That's a bold-faced lie and we all know it. Won't you please just be a man, admit that you sent these messages, and maybe also admit that you're still up in the air, that the messages were a tad premature? Won't you please just do me the common courtesy of not lying to my face while I'm three feet away from you?"

Alas, it didn't happen. And there's a precedent for that, also unfortunate. Back in 1999, NBC's Jim Gray was on-field with Pete Rose as Rose was allowed—only temporarily and somewhat grudgingly—back into Major League Baseball's fold to attend a ceremony honoring MLB's All-Century Team. Rose had been voted a part of that team, but he had also accepted a settlement from MLB including a lifetime ban amid allegations that Rose had broken the most taboo of baseball taboos—he had bet on MLB games. Gray offered Rose the chance to finally come clean, 100%, asking Rose, "Are you willing to admit that you bet on baseball, and make some sort of apology to that effect?"

Rose steadfastly refused, offering, "Not at all, Jim. I'm not going to admit to something that didn't happen."

An uncomfortable and terse exchange followed, and Gray was roundly criticized for his line of questioning. The punchline, of course, is that Rose HAD bet on baseball, and finally admitted it…five years later as part of a book he was selling.

Think on that: Jim Gray did the right thing. He was a reporter, doing his job, asking questions that were in the hearts and minds of baseball fans everywhere. He knew he was right. Pete Rose knew he was wrong. And Gray walked away the villain. We were somehow more comfortable with the lie.

Ed Werder is you. Jim Gray is you. When Favre or Rose tells a point-blank lie to Werder or Gray, they know precisely what the hell they are doing. That microphone has a big "ESPN" or "NBC" on it. The red light on the camera is on. They know they are lying to media, and an audience of millions. They know they are lying to you.

And yet…you don't care. You're used to it. You shrug it off. And you teach your six-year-old kid that lying is wrong.

Please start demanding better.

Please get Ed Werder's back. Please stand up for Jim Gray (okay, we know "The Decision" was a crazy-concocted mistake, but still). Please tell the Favres and Roses of the world that, seriously, that's a giant goddamn insult to stand there and just goddamn lie through your teeth, and y'know what? Won't be tolerated, son.

While you're it at, ask Dodgers possible-owner Jamie McCourt, now in divorce proceedings, if we're really supposed to believe she signed a marital property agreement WITHOUT reading it, because she finds legal documents boring (By the way, she's a lawyer).

While you're it at, ask Reggie Bush something. Bush just gave back his 2005 Heisman Trophy after being declared ineligible by the NCAA, yet still asserts he and his family did not accept improper benefits. Bush now proclaims that he wants to "establish an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid some of the mistakes I made." Hey, Reggie! What were those mistakes? You haven't told anyone yet. Just what are they?

I hope you will do it. Granted, it's tough to do yourself. Bottom line, if you're interested in a little truth, you probably need an Ed Werder or a Jim Gray to do it for you. So help them. Get their back. Let the liars know their lies will not be tolerated. Or lying will remain so prevalent in our culture, that you've come to totally accept it.

Jim McLauchlin
Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Next: Fake care is so easy, cool, and replaces the real thing (with none of the benefit!)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Your View of Media is Constantly Changing, and it Will Get Right Back to Where it Started. Eventually.

Chances are you hate whatever your definition of "the mainstream media" is. Those chances are, oh, let's start with a baseline of 50/50 and go 10% more toward "hate" for each of the following factors:

1) You stood in line overnight to get an iPad
2) You have a blog that you update at least once weekly
3) You comment on other blogs under a non-real-name handle i.e. "Boba_Fett_53" (okay, this one's worth 20%)
4) You watch Rachel Maddow religiously
5) You watch Glenn Beck religiously
6) You think Sarah Palin is cool
7) You understand what Sarah Palin is saying when she talks about about lipstick and pit bulls (this one worth 51%).

Bottom line, we are a generation-and-a-half removed from Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post and Watergate (look it up, kids!), and the newspaper is no longer your buddy. You don't like it. It's not cool. Boxscores DO look way freakin' cooler on than they do in the newspaper, those comic strips are getting suckier, and you can't understand why a newsroom full of old, fat, white men are overtly concerned with city council meetings. And you can pretty much ditto this newspaper-y sentiment, if not the letter, for whatever else you consider "the mainstream media," be it ABC News, Time, or even the aforementioned ESPN (or "the dreaded four-letter," in the parlance of many). Bottom line, "the mainstream media" just ain't cool, and further, if you hit any of our seven numbered sweet spots up top, it doesn't represent you, your interests, what you care about.

Yet, your craving for news, information, opinion, rumor-mongering and whatever else is seemingly at an all-time high. You're tethered to a "smart phone" where you're checking Facebook every 12 minutes. You refuse to patronize coffee shops without WiFi. And you are right in these feelings and actions. Seriously, you are.

So chances are if you hate that damn mainstream media, and yet your jones is stronger than ever…you're turning to some sorta "alternative" media, in a blog, Facebook, whatever. Also called into question is just what constitutes "news" to YOU at this point. Is it your friend's birthday party? Sure. Good luck getting ABC News to tell you about that, but who cares? You have Facebook.

Now here's the rub: Your friend's birthday is one thing. Sarah Palin is another. And whereas you can get every ding-dang scrap of news, information, opinion, rumor-mongering and whatever else you need on your friend's birthday just fine on your own or from one of those newfangled Facebooks, it's another matter for the Formerly First Alaskan. Yes, there are 72,000 blogs with news and opinion on Ms. Palin, but most all of them STARTED with a nugget or 12 dug up and provided to you (or that blogger) on a silver platter by Your Local Daily Herald, Time, or ABC News. You know—that damn mainstream media you hate so much.

Where we're going here is that you still need some form of Dreaded Mainstream Media (that you hate) to feed Your Beloved Alternative (which you, uh…love, I guess). Why? As with all things in life, follow the money.

And it's Bill James, one of the 10 Smartest People in Our Culture, who helps light the way. James is famous for being the godfather of modern baseball statisticians, but has another passion for that which we call "true crime." He wrote a fairly recent essay about newspapers in which he noted that as printing newspapers became cost-efficient on about 1836 or so, the industry boomed. New papers popped up, and competed with each other, usually grabbing readers with salacious stories of gory crimes. And ya know what? Bereft of tradition, standards, guidance, protocol and an AP Stylebook, in James' words, "Every significant city by 1845 had dozens of little newspapers, which were much closer to blogs than to modern newspapers."

What James is saying is that it was a singular editorial voice that drove these proto-papers. They were heavy on opinion, light on double-checked facts. They tended toward social calendar-type events as well. Seriously. Check out an 1887 newspaper, and you might see an honest-to-Lou-Grant story that reads "Mr. James McLauchlin of Saint Paul and his friend Mr. Brian Zywiec of Inver Grove Heights traveled to the home of Mr. Tim Brennan of Oakdale on Tuesday night, where they enjoyed cocktails and played cribbage before ending the night's visit promptly at 10 p.m." Really. Check out an old newspaper. They printed crazy crap like this all the time.

The 2010 version of the salacious story is Today's gin rickeys and cribbage is Facebook. Maybe Twitter. We are back where we started. It is 1845 again, but thankfully plumbing works and things smell better.

Again, let's separate the birthday from Sarah Palin. You need that original report, that original reporter, that cameraman, whatever, to tell you what Sarah Palin said so you can second-hand blog (not a pejorative here; just a fact) your opinion. And that costs money. Who flies to Washington to see and report on the speech? Who has that ’spensive video camera? Newspapers. ABC News. It costs money. And your dreaded mainstream media is feeding your alternative and second-hand media, essentially for free. Without a Washington Post and an ABC, most political blogs would blink outta existence for lack of fuel.

I know, I know. The hue and cry at this instant in time in your reading is "But what about the 'citizen journalist?'" Well, let's be frank: There are folks at that Palin speech with memories, iPhones, and maybe even a notebook. So yeah, the ground-up, totally-outside-the-mainstream revolution/evolution is a theoretical possibility…but that's about it. How many of those after-the-fact blogs are fueled by that original, "citizen journalist" report, and how many by what you saw on ABC News? Is it a 99%/1% skew in favor of that dreaded mainstream media? 98%/2%? If it's that massive (likely), does it even matter?

The point, post-all this rambling, is that if you think you hate the mainstream media, you actually love it. And you need it. ’Cause it actually fuels that which you love.

The more-good-news is brought to us again by Mr. James in that same essay. Quoth the sage: "We're back to 1836 now, in a sense; everybody who wants to has his own 'newspaper,' and it's tough to know who is good and who is reliable and who isn't, but the same processes are still running. The blogs will get bigger; the good ones are hiring a second helper and a third and fourth, and we'll spend a century or more sorting things out and re-creating the market. It's hard, but it's not a bad thing. It's a good thing."

So check that, cats and kids: The alternative media will become The New Mainstream Media. We see it happening already. What does aspire to be? A TV show. And it already is.

Your view of media is constantly changing, and it will get right back to where it started. Eventually.

Jim McLauchlin

Next: Lying is so prevalent in our culture, that you've come to totally accept it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Popular Unpopular Opinion

And we begin.

This has been in the back of my mind for quite some time, and a new class I'm taking has pushed me over the edge. I'm starting a blog for opinions I hold that I reckon may be unpopular, but hey, that's life. And sometimes we all have to hear the bad news.

My intention is that whatever I post here will be the first and last words I have on the subject, and I have no want, need, nor desire (nor time! I have a 2-year-old kid!) to play master debater in comments. I'll have a friend look in to make sure there are no F-bombs nor libel, and that's about that. If you wish to comment and make enemies, feel free, but please keep it civil.

Working rules for comments:
1) Civility, please. George Carlin's Seven are a great way to get your comment bounced, and we'll also bounce appropriate variations thereof.

2) Nothing libelous. Our working definition: Defamatory statements that harm someone's reputation.

3) None of your "Discount Canadian Pharmacy" ads. Those do pop up from time to time.

I figger people always like pictures of dogs, so a pic of my ol' golden retriever, Abby, top of this column.

Next: Why your view of media is constantly changing, and why it will get right back where it started. More or less.

Jim McLauchlin