I was waiting to go to my monthly check-up with my GP and with what has become routine as much as a habit, taking breakfast in a quiet little corner cafe near the practice. It’s nothing flash, but the two women that run know how to make ‘basic’ good and satisfying. Very good, actually. On these occasions, I take time out to check in with the real world and consult the daily newspaper. Once a month is about all I can handle. I have to say, dear reader, that the daily rag has never been more fit for wrapping fish and chips in. It is about all it is fit for. Ah, if only that tradition still held…
I have been watching with quiet despair the increasing decline in content and context in regard to daily news. The thing that bothers me most is the goldfish mentality of the writing. It as if the journalists are convinced – and perhaps with good reason – that we all have a three-second memory span. The tendency to say as little possible repeatedly, just reiterating it over and over again.
What they do is convey, as briefly as possible, the basic premise and then spend the rest of the column space retelling it in slightly different ways.
The content does not unfold or evolve, it just shifts like smoke in a closed room. It changes shape before your eyes and then dissipates like a failed ghost. A last pathetic attempt being seen.
And so it goes, the art of saying nothing, ad nauseam. An endless cycle of (not even) sweet nothings whispered in the ear – or eye in this case. These days they may just as well run stories as headlines, or the headlines as stories… perhaps in alphabetical order to make it even easier on one’s imagined entitlement to selectivity.
How many times can you say the same thing and make it interesting? Especially if the original news at hand or ‘scoop is not really that interesting. Perhaps it would be interesting if one was not constantly obliged to re-read the opening sentence over and over. How do editors allow this? I have come to believe they encourage it.
Again and again, I peruse the paper, quiet despair descending upon me, growing within as I consider the increasing decline in content and context. I feel like goldfish in a sea of words suspended in a soggy (news)paper mache bowl. I cast my memory back, looking for a time previous before the YouTube phenomena took hold. MTV springs to mind.
Short grabs, enough to momentarily stave hunger. but not enough to satiate hunger or desire. An intellectual mousse, or perhaps souffle, nothing more.
Like a mindless mantra that induces coma rather than deep relaxation. You ingest, you absorb but sustenance continues to elude. The same thing said over and over until you surrender to the void.
Have I demonstrated my point effectively enough? Dear and gentle reader, have you cottoned onto your correspondent’s little tease?
I look forward with great sorrow, to the time when a newspaper’s literary content has been reduced to a comic book format of bastardized emoji hieroglyphics. This I fear, is the road we travel. What is happening with the broadsheet is also happening to us. Affecting our own cognitive powers and process.
The art of letter writing or ingenuity of a carefully composed telegram has been reduced to shared memes, limited character tweets or a staggered blurt/rant on FaceBook.
We treat our language and constructs in the same manner as people tend to travel abroad on airplanes.
Dressed in track pants and tees as if still alone in one’s lounge. No thought of style or presentation. My wife and I were lining up to board an international flight once when a kind and well-meaning fellow passenger suggested we were in the wrong queue. “First Class was over there… ”
We explained that we were travelling economy and got a bewildered stare back. We were dressed presentably but not overly… but just about everyone else was in shorts and thongs or tracksuits and so we learned the error of our ways.
I was pretty sure I spotted someone in pyjamas, but I could not swear to it.
Comfort and convenience rule. Why search the mind for the appropriate adjective or adverb when you can just use profanity? Why suppose to use prose if no one has the time or inclination to savor it. Why make an effort if none is expected?
I have taken to revisiting classic literature. I was alarmed to find I have forgotten the true meaning of some words (most likely not listed in predictive text) and found need to make use of the dictionary so as to re-acquaint myself with these word gems so rich with lyric content. Beautiful words. Lost worlds and bygone eras brought back to life like Mary Shelly’s monster.
Illiteracy is a dangerous thing. I fear what kind of world people will be obliged to live in 50 years from now.