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Sep 30

Written by: Greg Runyon
9/30/2009 8:14 AM 

There was a story on the front page of the local paper a few days ago.  It was about a fellow in Keosauqua, Iowa, who got temporary release from his 10-day jail sentence to attend a Boston Red Sox game when they, his favorite team, were in Kansas City to take on the Royals.


This story brings forth a number of issues.  First, why in the world is this front page news?  There are maybe 3-5 stories that make the front page on a given day.  You’re telling me that this is among the biggest news of the day:  The fact that some guy 100 miles from Cedar Rapids got a weekend pass out of jail when he’s only in for ten days to begin with?  Really?


Now, on the other side of the coin, why the hell does some guy get to get out of jail to go to a baseball game?  I dunno, maybe if you want to go to particular baseball games, you ought not violate a protective order and interfere with official acts.  Call me crazy, but that just might work! 


Having said that, it’s not like the guy was sentenced for some horrific crime.  He’ll do his ten days in the pokey, and with luck have learned his lesson.  The fact that there is a protective order out against him probably means he’s a bit of a bully.  Certainly he’s got the possibility of making some better choices in life.  Let’s hope he does.


Regardless of what side you come down vis-à-vis this mope, the larger issue is, to me anyway, why is this story on the front page of the paper?  I’d be pleased to no end if there was nothing more newsworthy than this in the world on any given day.  Or every day.  It would mean we’re living a very peaceful existence if Mr. Protective Order Violator is the biggest thing we have to worry about.  Perhaps on that day, it was indeed so.  In that case, cool-a-roonie. 


The battle for relevance is on in the news industry.  Television, radio, and newspapers are all battling the Internet for capturing the attention of news consumers.  I can’t see TV or Radio having that story as one of the top 3-5 stories in a newscast, but maybe I’m wrong about that.  Presuming I’m right, though (and that’s always a good course of action if I do say so myself), why does the newspaper give it such prominence?


Admittedly, I know little about the newspaper business.  The story was “below the fold” as they say (guess I’m not all dumb), so maybe to a newspaperman (newspaperperson?), that’s the important part.  Above-the-fold-front-page is certainly more valuable real estate, since that’s the side that’s displayed in news bins and retail racks.  I don’t know, it just seemed like a story such as that, of relatively minor importance, could slide inside somewhere, and front page space could be given to something either more local (again, this was 100 miles away), or something more, shall we say, earth-shattering, even if it were national or international.  Of course, now that I’ve gone to the trouble of agonizing over this (and oh, what trouble it’s been), I see that this story has now made’s page, so maybe this is a bigger story than I thought?  It just all seems so dumb to me.


I really have no great idea of how to wrap up this little discussion, so let me briefly switch topics.  I was prepared, in wrapping up this little discussion, to do a little self-deprecation and mention that the pablum I produce in this blog-space probably isn’t even worthy enough writing to garner space in a newspaper, so who am I to criticize?  But in writing that, I was distracted by Microsoft Word telling me that pablum is not a word.  It wanted me to change it to “pabulum.”  I’m pretty good with vocab, but every once in a while I whiff, so I looked up “pabulum,” and it told me that one of the definitions is “insipid intellectual nourishment.”  I’m not sure that I really understand what that means, but I do know that that wasn’t precisely on the nose of what I thought “pablum” meant, but it was close enough that I assumed that I was wrong for thinking pablum was a word.


Then I scrolled down a bit on, my personal choice for lexical assistance, and noted that that particular definition for “pabulum” developed out of confusion with “pablum.”  So I looked up “pablum,”—the word I wanted to use in the first place that Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize as a word—and, mercy me, it means exactly what I thought it did, and what I wanted to communicate:  Trite, insipid, or simplistic writing, speech, or conceptualization.  Bingo.  I produce pablum.  I’m not ashamed.


Now, Microsoft Word has probably aided in more pablum production than any other computer program.  Seems like perhaps the fine folks in Redmond, Washington would just as soon you not mention that, though.  How’s that for an ending?  It’ll have to do.



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