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The Misery of Reading Page One

Justa couple weeks ago, I was sitting in a hotel room in Nashville reading the local daily.

Onthe front page appeared a story about how Kid Rock had been arrested forgetting into a bar brawl. Inside that same paper, I think on about page A9, wasa story about how it has all but been confirmed that life did exist on Mars andmaybe still does today. The article explained how the oceans of Mars likelywent underground and still exist, producing methane gas, one of the by productsof life.

Asa newspaper editor, it galls me no end how some in my profession treat certainstories. Sure, the fact mega-nerd Kid Rock was arrested is probably a big dealin Nashville, Music City, USA.But almost certain proof of life beyond our planet? I often wonder where thepriorities of editors and the public lie. I'm sure the rationale of the editorwas determining what would sell the newspaper. I do it every day.

Yetsomewhere inside these folks, they just aren't thinking. The possibleconfirmation of life on another planet is an enormously important and hugestory all around the world. That Kid Rock was arrested is about as shocking aslearning there is corruption in government. I guess I should be happy that theinside pages editor decided the Mars story should get some ink.

Butit's hard to point the finger at the front-page editor. That story likely didsell more newspapers. And that is a sad comment on society. Where has ourpassion gone about expanding our horizons? Are we so caught up in pocketpagers, soccer practice, and a cup of Starbuck's, that we no longer see theforest for the trees? Has it gotten that bad?

Itappears to take a major catastrophe for the space program to get prominentheadlines. That will certainly change when the shuttle program is back inoperation, not because we're exploring space, but because there was a disasterand the jury remains out on whether we can safely fly again. Oncethat is proven, it will all beback in the news briefs section until there is another major problem.

Whenpopular television culture features bikini-clad women eating worms and Englishnannies fixing our kids, it says something about our society. What it says isanything but pleasant. We have become so fixated on the here and now that thefuture seems almost irrelevant. Maybe we need a minor meteor strike to wake upthis world.

Asa working journalist, I feel it is my constant job to tell people about whatcould be and how we are getting to those goals. Yet it is glamour journalismwhich seems to get all the attention. Can you say Dan Rather? How about NewYork Times? The list is endless, and it gives all of journalism a bad name. Yetthe real nuts and bolts of journalism takes place inthe small newspapers all across this country every week. One of the mostcommented on columns I ever wrote came after the Challenger accident. I triedvery hard to put a human spin on the tragedy, instead of the blame game thatwas going on across the nation.

CertainlyI'm biased, but I strongly believe that it will take people who have actuallypracticed what we call "community journalism" to take over these media outletsto begin telling the important stories on page one, as well as restoringcredibility to our profession. Nothing less will suffice. It's the humanelement which will eventually propel us beyond the galaxy and into the greatunknown. We must start by sharing our human experiences. Humans laugh and cry,and that's what the average person can relate to, not some corporate talkinghead trying to tell us why things happen. Let us be the judge.

Untilthat happens, we might as well send a drunken Kid Rock into space so he can getinto a brawl with a Martian parasite. Misery does love company and so would thepage one editors.

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