Old Man Use-to Died!

January16/ 2000

….. Two take-for-granted elements of everyday life in America are in a major “state of flux” …. Neither will ever be “like they used to be”. …. The daily newspaper and the air travel industry are inexorably joining buggywhips and telephone booths in the Use-ta Museum. …. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock probably didn’t mention either one as casualties of technology and circumstance, but they surely are …..

I hate to see a restaurant close or a small bizness franchise go dark in a strip center.  It means someone’s dream fizzled and a fizzled dream is something everyone can identify with to some degree.  Otherwise there would 1,000,000 centerfielders in Yankee Stadium, 10,000 kids on ORW’s bench and more ingénues taking bows on Broadway than anyone can count.  Not to mention more “great American novels” than Barnes & Noble has space for.

What I hate as much is to see excuses made on the occasion of a dream fizzling.  “The economy” …. “an unscrupulous competitor” …. “an unsympathetic banker” …. Et al.  When’s the last time (first time) you heard

“I sure wanted to succeed but push came to shove and I didn’t know sh*t from shineola how to make a go of it ….”

I always said Blue-bleedin John Bunting had enuff “want to” to go undefeated but not enuff “how to” to ever make it work.

My sympathy for a failed bizness does not extend to arrogant CEOs and BODs who think they can survive on the sheer force of their arrogance ….. which brings us to newspapers and airlines.

 We discussed a few months ago that “dead tree journalism” is on life support.  That primarily pertains to “newspapers” for the time being.  Recently in the span of a month all the major newspaper chains announced significant cutbacks in staffing with not even the illusion that the cutbacks were “less than permanent”.  There was the precursory mention of “the economy” specifically ad revenues in the real estate and automotive segments, but that was their standard “blame George Bush” response to anything including “the weather”.  Would that Dubyah held the fate of the American newspaper industry in his hands.

Socio-cultural pundits have signaled the end of news”papers” as we have known them for a decade.  The speed of their obsolescence to be determined by the growth of computers as a commodity and the Internet in particular.  As fast as America went on-line, newspapers would decline in direct proportion.

The substantial egos of newspaper publishers, editors and columnists were naught but twigs snapped in the gale force winds of the Cat-5 hurricane known as “the Internet”.  “We are the daily newspaper!  America cannot begin its day until we tell it what to think.”  Gosh darn it, America has found a way to get along without its paper on the driveway at 6AM.  Say it ain’t so John Peter Zenger.

My beef with “newspapers” has NEVER been their blatant bias, but rather their arrogant self-righteous denial of it.  I’m biased.  Rush is biased.  Woody Derm is biased.  We admit it.  Find me an editor or publisher who will.

I never had strong feelings for/against Senator Helms.  My contacts that knew him personally always had opinions 180 from what I read in “the N&O” over the years.  Since his death I have spoken with various high profile (and credible) Democrats who admit that Jesse was a fine gentleman and never the ogre depicted by his home town paper.

A dear friend of ours had to abandon the real estate project of his dreams because the N&O mauled him with innuendos and downright lies.  In retrospect they admitted their mistake but never in print and well after it was too late.

Then there was Cirque de Nifong and the infamous N&O-led lynch mob that was determined to destroy “the rich white boys”.   Hard to have much sympathy for “The Old Reliable” when seeing it in that light.  Your paper in your town no doubt had similar ideologically-motivated crusades over the years.  Did they ever apologize when the error of their crusades became apparent?  Newspaper NEVER apologize …. “it might effect our credibility”.

Regardless, their era is done.  How they will reformat themselves to a cyber presence and generate revenues is yet to be seen.  Charging for Internet access has already proven impossible.  I read on-line “newspapers” exclusively and NEVER notice a single banner ad or ads of any sort.  I can’t be alone.  If subscriptions and ad sales are the only income streams and both slow to a trickle, whatchagonnado ????

Does America need a 4th estate?  Absolutely.  Imagine the duly-elected scumbags at the local, state and federal levels having no fear of their daily nefariousness being “above-the-fold” in some manner.   We need some form of Woodward & Bernstein lurking behind the potted palm.

On the national level there will always be “electronic media” watchdogs, but on the local level your sleazy mayor and his eeeevil henchmen on city council or county commissioners will have it a bit easier to snatch and grab.  On the state level where, I maintain, the worst of the worst tend to lurk regardless of the state, it could get dicey.  Blow dried TV news twits don’t have much Kolchak in’em.

Newspapers will not just disappear in the next year or so but will melt away over the next decade  Ongoing staff cutbacks and assorted belt tightening to cut expenses will be quarterly occurrences.  Income streams will run dry as they already are doing.   Press row at sports events will be 1-2 interns sending out score updates as papers will not have the staff or travel budgets for “beat reporters”.   As always, the last items cut will be ….. TA-DAAA …. Executive salaries and bonuses.

 If “your local paper” truly was still “local” it would have better odds to survive as the local business community might rally to support one of it’s own.  But carpetbagger conglomerates can’t pass themselves off as homeboys.  After decades of confiscatory ad rates, the community will shun them.

Most of us who swore we HAD to have our morning paper with our morning coffee have already weaned ourselves off that myth.  There will be a few die-hards but most of them are in the “senior” category and not extending their subscriptions beyond 3-months at a time (or buying green bananas).

The REALLY important stuff like obituaries and wedding announcements will adapt to the ‘net just fine.  Sports is already a bookmark for most fans.  If the carpetbagger conglomerates shut down their field offices, local entrepreneurs will arise to fill the need.

Oh well ….  If a tree falls in the deep woods and is not made into newsprint, will America survive?  Probably.  …. Lining birdcages and wrapping fish may be a problem though. 


   When’s the last time you flew “a friendly sky”?   I’m young enough to remember my first airplane trip and what a special event it was.  Now “flying” is about as special as enduring a visit to the DMV for a license renewal.  Come to think of it, the DMV smells better and the line is shorter. ….. and Edna the DMV lady is prettier than any “flight attendant” I’ve seen in years.  Edna is 68 and looks like Thelma Lou’s ugly sister (the one with the severe overbite).  So much for “coffee, tea or me” ….

I’ve flown regularly over the past decade but never so extensively to merit special lounges and upgrades.  I have several buddies who do however.  Their horror stories as “VIPs” are worse than anything I’ve experienced as a Joe Shmoe.

I forsook “business casual” while flying some years ago but never went lower down the sartorial ladder than khakis and a golf shirt.  I don’t own a wife-beater t-shirt or “flip flops” which apparently is the official uniform of 86% of airline passengers these days.  Will we reach the point that a “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Boarding” sign is posted at the jetway?  If so, no doubt the ACLU will defend the 300 lbs barefoot slob wearing naught but a dirty speedo.

Remember all the jokes about “airline food” when it was “TV dinners” in little plastic trays with itty-bitty salt ‘n pepper thimbles?   Now it’s bring your own trail mix and buy a diet coke for $2.

I have a standing joke about going to the DMV and being the only one there who bathed that month, has more than four teeth, and knew who my father probably was.  Now that same constituency seems to be flying wherever I’m going.  

What the difference now between flying Delta or hitching a ride on a “chicken truck” to Guadalajara?  The chicken truck MIGHT actually leave on schedule.  Delta won’t.

You’ve all seen that sign “The FAA can not guarantee your safety in Lagos Nigeria”.  Could Lagos be any scarier than Newark Airport or LaGuardia?

How did air travel become “Greyhound buses w/ wings”?   Figure “piss poor management” in the top two reasons.  Like the newspaper industry, arrogance contributed to their downfall.   Whenever you read “due to a faltering economy” it’s a synonym for “we saw it coming but weren’t smart enuff to plan for it ….besides we figure the stoopid public has to fly with us any way.”

9/11 certainly contributed to the airline woes.  I still wonder what if “the shoe bomber” had hidden his C-4 in a suppository up his butt.  Pre-boarding security would involve short-arm inspections.

My buddy gets his G-550 next month.  He’s selling his G-3 for $20,000,000.  I can probably get him down to $18,000,000 if anyone wants to go in with me on a joint purchase?


 What did The Culligan Man sell?


    Charles Kuralt’s little brother Wallace owned “The Intimate”.

   Tremendous response to the column on my lunch w/ Doogie.  I hope most of you UNCers will cut Doog some slack on his first “decision” which, I predict, will favor his fellow faculty squirrels …. Subsequent decisions should move more to the center where they should all be.

   As Platinum Pals learned …. Ol’ Apple Cheeks got caught in a secret rendezvous this week with his “lady friend” Reille Hunter at The Beverly Hilton.  Which “America” is The Beverly Hilton in Johnny?   Courageous Elizabeth was NOT present at the 2AM reunion of the quite arrogant former senator and Reille.   

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