New Media, My Ass

Monday night I finish dinner, finish dishes, and start changing strings on some guitars when I decide I can take advantage of the moment to participate in so-called American Culture. So I turn on the television.

Jeopardy has been pre-empted by Monday Night FOOTBAAAAAAAALLL!! so I start clicking channels. There must be something on. I'm young, hip, down-wit-it, got-it-goin-on, privy to the isms 'n all dat: gotta be sumpin' out dere spekes to me, yo.

click. click. clickclickclick. click. click.

After a couple dozen channels of neatly-coifed talking heads, children "making over" homes, mutton-chopped chopper builders, scowling fictional police detectives, sitcom re-runs I wouldn't watch the first time, bad anime, skimpy-jiggly hip-hop grrls, worst 40s, top 10s, and laser-scoured lipo-sucked barbie-and-ken co-hosts, my channel surfing suddenly stops on...

C-SPAN. Where Ana Marie Cox is participating in a Newseum panel discussion with Steve Luxenberg, Joe Queenan, Jon Lieberman, and other Big-Headed Titans of Traditional Journalism about the blurring between news, journalism, partisanship, and commentary. Apparently, there's a phenomena called "blogging" which might be somehow related. It was hard to tell from the quality of the talk.

Now, I have to admit: my interest in the Wonkette site is purely schadenfreudeial. Being a West Coast boy, I tend to view Washington DC, New York, Boston, and the "East Coast" as a largely fictional dystopian locale which is only relevant in my life as a setting for some one-hour police dramas. Briefly, it's noisy, crowded, polluted, cold, broken-down, tiny, and full of itself—and that makes it ripe for mocking. Ana does a good job sometimes.

And that last quality—being full of itself—was on strident display amongst the hoity-toity "real" journalists on the panel holding up the Washington Post and the New York Times as some sort of paragons of truth, justice, and family ownership. These folks are complimenting the wonderful, rustic, primitive quality of local papers out of one side of their mouths while the other side rambles on about how all papers but theirs are awful. One even made a veiled threat against bloggers which had me laughing so hard the cats got upset with me. And I'm not one who has a high opinion of blogs.

Only one question from the audience got me thinking—and, of course, none of the panelists actually addressed it. A man asked something along the lines of "Do you think there's a geographic disparity in the news media, where some areas of the country more easily receive certain sources and types of information, and others don't? Will the Internet fix that?"

The panelists basically said "Well, the New York Times has a national edition which accounts for almost 40 percent of its subscribers!" Point being: full-of-itself East Coast media is a beacon in the Western darkness.

To my way of thinking—well outside the Beltway and nowhere near the East Coast—that totally misses the point. East Coast publications or national editions thereof are about as significant as the weather reports for northern Romania. They generally do not cover issues, topics, or material outside of their swelled-head, myopic, states-the-size-of-counties world view, and—on the few occasions they do so—they're often so wildly naïve that the stories count as humor pieces.

So you know what? Screw you. The West can be as uppity as anyone else, and we probably drive faster and shoot better, so be careful when you start your car in the morning.

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