deja vu

I’m obviously not a prolific blogger. About once every month, starting in September 2010, I vent in this format; not that I don’t always have passionate opinions (personal and/or informed) on many events, stories, issues, some of which are new, some lingering and languishing amongst the mounting rubble from an avalanche of daily digital dispatches via mainstream news outlets, secondary outlets (domestic and foreign), postings in the blogosphere, Twitter and the rest.

Today, it’s simply a case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same” or, it’s deja vu, all over again. The specific catalyst that has me blogging now is a page-two columnist’s account in today’s Chicgo Tribune about the death of a dog named Kuma. As soon as I encountered the bittersweet homage to Kuma’s life and death, I was reminded of a blog I posted almost exactly a year ago that opined on another Tribune page-two elegy for a dog named Scout. In that blog I noted that Scout had a pretty good life of 13 or so years, loved and then mourned by its human family. Then I contrasted that well expressed but weepy account with the daily carnage of street crime in Chicago that routinely takes the lives of many South and West-Side children younger than Scout. Not many page-two profiles of love and loss for those victims.

Today’s story was essentially a repeat, just substituting Kuma for Scout. Page two. Great dog. Wonderful family. Doggie dies. R.I.P. Kuma. Okay. I get it. It’s a variation of a human interest story, though the focal point is a dog and the loss felt by its family. Fine. There’s enough bad news reported, so what’s wrong with a dose of dog-dies-but-had-positive-impact-on-family? I like dogs. they’re great pets. But what seems odd is the inescapable irony that a major newspaper would devote prime print real estate to these canine demise narratives as though the reading public needed to encounter Scout/Kuma’s death in an up-front, strategically placed manner, ( you’re gonna want to read this, folks!). Really? I think the space allotted for the dog-is-dead story could be better used for page-two journalism seeking not just to “comfort the afflicted” (my dog is dead! I’m so sad..) but step-up the pressure as in “afflict the comfortable” too, as that adage about the purpose of a free press goes.

Encountering each of these dead-dog eulogies begs the question of how does the Tribune and its columnists even become aware of the situation? Do these families who witness the inevitable passing of their pooch send out press releases? How many family dogs die each day? What makes Scout or Kuma so special? And again, whatever the conduit that transports the personal loss to the printed page, how does it warrant such absurdly prominent exposure in a major, spreadsheet like the Chicago Tribune? It’s Chicago, not Mayberry!

Journalism–both print and electronic–certainly isn’t what it used to be. Lots of fluff and photo op poop, with little or no in-depth analysis or context are as likely to eat up column inches as determined reporting on the many nefarious movers and shakers that negatively impact all of our lives. Starting with “imbedded reporters” and military screening of what can or cannot be reported, a la Gulf I and Gulf II, and Afghanistan, the press has steadily lost its punch. Where are this generation’s Woodward or Bernstein? Who knows? Maybe the Tribune can send out a few good investigative news hounds to sniff the trail of their possible whereabouts. And, if along the way, they pick up the scent of a doggie-is-dead lament, just keep moving and try to remember why you become reporters and newspaper people in the first place.

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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