Is The Sky Still Falling?
Look Out! Chicken Little Has Found A New Megaphone
Technology Gives The Looneys A New Pulpit
Written by George Hanna. Last updated Saturday March 28th, 2009
By GEORGE HANNA
When last I worked at a newspaper there was a typewriter and an overflowing ashtray on every desk. It would be an understatement to say that things have changed.
The iPod generation has taken over the newsrooms and even the vocabulary is new: blogs...facebook...twitter...e-newsletters...mobile sites...it’s a high-tech communications world.
This new communications technology is color-blind, gender-neutral and looney-friendly. In the low-tech, smoke-filled newsrooms of yesterday, when a scruffy figure wearing a black overcoat appeared in the doorway clutching a bundle of papers held securely with rubber bands there was a head-long scramble to go to lunch or to the restroom, avoiding eye contact at all costs.
Today, the end-of-worlders who once slouched on downtown street corners waving signs carrying a doomsday message don’t have to lurk in the hallway and wait a chance to clutch at the lapels of the poor devil who was too slow to exit the newsroom.
They just blog their "Wake Up, America" warnings. Columnist Kathleen Parker calls them "drive-by pundits."
One blogger on a newspaper website wrote, "Massive social disorder, complete lawlessness, is just around the corner." It continued, "Stockpile basic food and water, long enough to last 30 days? Not a bad idea."
Honest to God, that’s what it said.
Television has them too, of course. With the advent of cable TV talk shows, the looneys were invited in to the studios to chat about doomsday. One can’t return to those simpler times, but there is nostalgia for the days when every town had a daily newspaper, and some had two: morning and afternoon. It was a time when there were three television networks, and on them were Walter Cronkite of CBS, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley of NBC, and somebody at ABC that no one watched. There were looneys, too, but nobody invited them in.
It’s sort of like wanting to go back to Mayberry and visit with Andy and Barney.
You can’t go there. And Don Knotts is dead.
That old newsroom is smoke-free now. Somewhere, the late Bill Leverty, a crusty copy-desk chief and two-pack-a-night smoker for whom I once worked at the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, is shaking his head in dismay. He also taught a journalism class at Washington & Lee, but he wouldn’t recognize the newspaper business now.
He would recognize a looney if he had read that looney blog, though.
George Hanna worked for various newspapers and for the Associated Press before going to work on the staff of the Florida Public Service Commission. He lives in Leesburg, Florida.