Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spare Us

Michael Massing, a contributing edtor to the Columbia Journalism Review, ponders "Missing Middle." (For the uninformed, that's the middle of the country most often referred to as "fly over" America.)

What he finds missing are the stories that originate from middle America. He wonders if major media was located in the Midwest, would there be more stories about religion? Or the unemployment in the automotive industry. Would reporters who lived there have knowledge of how Ohio came to be a swing state in Presidential elections? All very interesting, but what he unintentionally admits is why those stories wouldn't be there anyway.

Most editors and newpapers are, in his words, fixated on Ivy League school. Not just for "how to get into them" but because that's where they find the journalists they hire. "Even an in-state paper like the Toledo Blade, I was told, often seemed to prefer Ivy League grads."

Of course they do. The Ivy League schools regularly produce the same kind of prats that can be found in most newsrooms.

prat - n. English term, primarily used in United Kingdom. The literal meaning is "bottom" or "rump"; aka backside, buttocks, sacrum, tail end. This lends itself to the slang meaning of "ass," or "clueless person of arrogant stupidity." It is not always directly translatable to American slang. For example, if you used the term "prat hat" in the U.K., you would likely be laughed out of town by the locals.

I can't believe what an overbearing idiot he is. What a prat!

Sending reporters to Iowa for a full year before an election to find out how they're thinking sounds a tad like an anthropological expedition to observe native culture in some distant land. I have visions of a reporter copiously taking notes while trying to fathom the language and unsophistication of locals with their own bizarre belief systems.

It's a belief system visiting journalists are unfamiliar with. One that includes God and religion, family values, a love of country, corn-fed philosophy and down-home friendliness, backyard barbeques and middle class decency. Worse, the natives have an indifference to journalists and newspapers and manufactured social issues.

A journalist wouldn't survive a week there. Not without extra pay one deserves for trekking through thoroughly despised territory, and a promotion. So they don't have to go back again.

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