Over the years, I, Bob Hoover, grumpy and small-time newspaper columnist, have dedicated this space to covering PTA meetings, bowling championships and bake sales. I’ve spent twenty-five years climbing out of the morass, becoming bitter and watching my hair recede and having to depend upon Viagra and an expensive instructional video to maintain any hope of an eclectic sex life. You’ll never catch me writing a newspaper column just after vacuuming (Hoovering, if you will) the house. Why, I save such chores for my dutiful wife. Because she knows and I know that, while I lost my enthusiasm for books long ago, I still have these columns to bang out. All adhering to the boring and inoffensive Post-Gazette template, all sucked of life and passion and the things I initially got into journalism for. All about as enthralling as the Pittsburgh Policeman’s Ball, which, as it so happens, I attended last Tuesday.
This is what journalism is and should remain. A place where editors who look suspiciously like Don Rickles cry poo-poo on the young upstart litbloggers, who are unpaid and make the occasional spelling mistake and who threaten to usurp reputations.
We conform to these rules because we need to justify our employment, and we respect our septuagenarian subscribers by giving them humorless news so watered down that the very fact-checking we purport to uphold is rote and meaningless. Frankly, we’re jealous that something like The Smoking Gun can beat us to the punch. We’re newspapermen, dammit! We’re intended to control today’s media! It’s just not fair!
If I make a mistake, I am flogged, beaten, tied up and denied sex for at least three weeks. I am forced to walk down Market Square with a scarlet letter stitched into my Sears suit. Several youngsters often attach signs reading “KICK ME” without my consent and proceed to kick your correspondent, Bob Hoover, onto the ground, smearing my face with the chocolate still left on their candy wrappers. You should see my dry cleaning and chiropractor bills.
Unlike these litbloggers, I, Bob Hoover, have no problems being humiliated like this. It’s part of being a Pittsburgh newspaperman. But I’m disappointed to see that this modest tar-and-feathering seems to be going the way of slavery, Charlie Chan and the dodo. The world isn’t what it was. Litbloggers should be publicly humiliated too. And it seems that as my space in print recedes, I too may find myself writing about the publishing industry from the comfort of my two-bedroom suburban home. Thank god we just applied the last mortgage payment.
Ah, the litblogosphere, which somehow manages to tap into literary culture in a way that seems to have escaped most newspapers. Somehow, these bastards read more than I do! These litboggers and their podcasts and their 75 books challenges and their interviews with authors who wouldn’t get the time of day elsewhere! How do they do it?
Of course, the only real thing a newspaperman can do is dismiss them with a pack of lies. Let I, Bob Hoover, claim, in light of the Jayson Blairs and the Judith Millers, that all litbloggers are scoundrels and prevaricators of the first order! Let I, Bob Hoover, baffled by the notion of content that isn’t targeted for an advertising-friendly demographic, declare these litbloggers to be writing for mommy and daddy! How dare they jest! How dare they skewer! How dare they even consider that their readers are smart enough to read between the lines! It’s not fair that litbloggers have hyperlinks for reference, or comments in place for readers to clarify mistakes or the subjects of their posts to respond to any allegations.
It’s also not fair that more people seem to be reading blogs than a Bob Hoover column. Don’t you like me? I learned a lesson long ago to play it safe, to never question the actions of prominent citizens or personages in the publishing industry. But these blogs have the liberty to unfurl the truth that I, Bob Hoover, cannot! These litblogs have the potential to be even more honest and truthful and probing than a Pittsburgh newspaper.
Clearly, there is little more one can do than dismiss them instead of embracing the paradigm shift. But then journalists like Terry Teachout and James Wolcott have always been more ahead of the curve than Bob Hoover.
© 2006, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.