Monday, March 22, 2010

Failed Examiner

The first thing some people do in the morning is swear at an alarm clock, but at least you can quickly silence the beep, and it only happens once a day. I reserve my slander for the telephone, because the chances of it being someone I actually want to speak to are around one in twenty. It’s rarely, or never, a publisher offering me a six-figure, five-book contract, or a magazine editor proposing a fat freelance deal for an article I could write off the top of my head from the safety of my desk (“Yes, we’re looking for a piece entitled 50 Things To Bitch About Before You’ve Even Left The House”). If it’s not one of my daughters’ class mates calling to find out what their biology homework is, it’s a pointless marketing survey (“We were wondering, How often do you field annoying phone calls just as you’re preparing dinner?”), or a guilt-edged inquiry about your willingness to contribute to the Veteran Fireman’s Retirement Fund, with the unspoken issue hanging over the conversation of just how rapidly an emergency response vehicle might make it your front door should you choose not to make a contribution.

You can tell a junk call because of a slight delay at the other end (they’re usually calling several people simultaneously), and the fact they always ask for my wife, whose simple surname they hopelessly mangle because it’s foreign. Mostly I hang up straightaway, but this morning, for some reason, I asked them what they wanted. I’m so glad that I did. It turned out they were from The Washington Examiner, a daily paper owned by reclusive billionaire Philip Anschutz that is occasionally delivered to our front door, at no cost and certainly not at our request. They wanted to know what I thought of it.

Here’s an example of the slant in last Thursday’s edition, which I’ve just fished out of the recycling pile. The editorial attacks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for having the temerity to be a tough Democrat. Stop Kicking In Our Doors, Madame Speaker says the headline, illustrated by a picture of her looking like she’s about to hit someone. The main story is about a transgender aide suing Montgomery County Council under an anti-discrimination law she helped draft – the newspaper’s main front page headline ‘Transgender sues under her own law’ is inaccurate, missing as it is the word ‘aide’, while the story itself is 99 per cent unfounded insinuation. A page of ‘Crime & Punishment’, with pictures of two wannabe tough looking crime reporters standing with their arms folded, relishes both the crime and presumably the ensuing punishment by perniciously linking separate issues with headlines like Police: Illegal Immigrants Raped Alexandria Woman, and Panamanian Murderer Caught, Lived Off Federal Subsidies. Columnist Chris Stirewalt devotes several hundred words to criticising President Obama because he seems “gloomy”, a result of “the desperate spectacle of the president’s effort to impose his health care plan on a defiant electorate.” Two more pieces on the Politics pages talks of Obama being “off message” on health care, and House Democrats “working desperately” to pass health care reform, topped off with a commentary from David Freddos on What Obamacare Has Already Done For Massachusetts (everyone’s as good as dead up there already, apparently).

That’s the health care reform bill that was passed yesterday, despite all this stunningly objective journalism. So, what do I think of the Washington Examiner? I’m so glad you asked.

“You mean that crappy right wing rag you keep tossing on to my property? I’d rather you didn’t, thanks. It goes straight in the trash. Your paper’s a disgrace. It’s verging on the fascist. So even though I know it effectively means you can’t even give your shitty paper away, I’d be really grateful if you stopped delivering it and we can all make a saving on the waste paper.”

“Are you a subscriber to the Washington Post, sir?” the caller wanted to know. Subtext: “Yeah, well that’s the kind of thing I’d expect to hear from a communist, America-hating Post reader.” Though the Post is a paper I almost cancelled when it ran an editorial supporting the Bush invasion of Iraq (but I like to know the weather, and read Get Fuzzy).

“Yes, I am,” I said with as much pride as you can muster for subscribing to a daily paper. And I should have added, thanks for letting me have my say. Your call has made my day.


No Good Boyo said...

Vanity newspapers, they're a very American and crackpot thing, aren't they?

I recall the Chicago Tribune, which thought the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal was biased against the Nazis, the "Rev" Moon's Washington Times and, in Ukraine, the weird Mike Willard who runs the indescribable Ukrainian Observer. Take a peek:

If you ever skip town and need a job, the Ukrainian Observer is always hiring.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Willard appears to be a character from one of your travelogue-blog entries, Boyo. And there was me thinking those strange subjects of your fulsome keyboard were either heavily exaggerated, or invented on a wet day in Wales. Still, any man who mistypes 'facetiously' as 'factiously' is fine by me, even though I haven't a clue what the hell he's banging on about.

sweetsinnergwen said...

Perhaps if you got a position on their staff and used some sophisticated and thoughtful language, they wouldn't even notice you swung to the left.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

The greater challenge would be resisting the temptation to set the building on fire. I'll leave getting a position on a right winger's staff up to the high-end call girls so talented at putting GOP family values to the test.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Despite my exhortation, Thursday has brought another copy of the Examiner to my doorstep. Amazingly, they seem to have missed the story that was on the Post front page about country-wide threats and vandalism aimed at House Democrats following the passing of health care reform. But they do manage to publish a letter agreeing with columnist Mark Hemingway that "many Americans are lying awake at night terrified of health care reform". Yep, you can hear the screams across suburbia at 3am.

Next time they call, I'll have to be a little less diplomatic.

Anonymous said...

Well I live in Massachusetts and the socialist democrats have already taken my organs and given them to gay people. So I'm glad to hear we only have 2 years left, according to the global warming guy.