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Monday, May 04, 2009

I knew he couldn't stay away forever

The greatest curmudgeon of the Internet - and probably the modern world - has returned.

Actually, Fred Reed has been back at it for over a month now from the looks of it. He announced in February that he was retiring... but nature does abhor a vacuum, right?

So Reed is at it again, and in his latest work he offers his unique insight regarding the death of the journalism industry.

Here's an excerpt...

A story once might have begun, “At midafternoon Thursday a house burned down at 112 Maples Street. Three children left unaccompanied inside escaped unhurt.” In the sensitive new journalism, the lead became, “Sally Harpooner, a single mother of three, saw a towering plume of smoke rising from her home as she returned from a community-sponsored drug-rehabilitation center. Her heart beat faster….” Before, a reporter would have said forget her heart, beat sally for being such a useless skell. Not longer. Stories began to appear about a kind old man who was giving hydrotherapy to his faithful dog Bowser who had hip displasia. The old crew had nothing against Bowser, but they didn’t think he was news.

The new crowd didn’t remember being blind drunk on ghastly Cambodia gin during the siege of Phnom Penh, running the alleys in rikshas by night and eating deep-fried pregnant crickets. They eggs made them creamy. Kipling would have understood. By day in Phnom Penh the ancient T-28s flown by the Khmer Air Force crashed because they pilots were trying to smuggle more sugar than they could take off with. The ragtag press corps—Cambodia was a sidewhoe--when not eating crickets, lay on rooftop patios with the full moon hanging above and the smell of flower trees making the air sticky-sweet and Chicom 122s whistling into the city from the marshes and taking out whole houses.

It was the last wheeze of the news game as it should be—raw, free, often eccentric. Then came embeds and newspapers run by accountants with green eyeshades. Advertising had always paid for papers, but now it became the paper’s reason for existence. The distance between a newspaper and a PR firm narrowed. Pleasantness became compulsory. The old hands hated pleasantness like poison.

One of these days, I'm gonna go through a whole bunch of Fred Reed essays the way they're prolly meant to be enjoyed: pissed-off mad and with several shots of Jack Daniels in my belly (and I'm not even a drinking man). One of these days, my friends. 'Til then, mash down here for the rest of Reed's newest article.