By Jack Cawthon 2011
'Twas the season for giving, but I hadn't realized how much giving and getting was taking place until a few days before Christmas I passed by a newspaper dispenser and the banner headline screamed out "Nurse Gets Prison for Sex."
The observed newspaper belongs to Mr. Raese's empire. I have never subscribed, being rather frugal - some say cheap. However, Mr. Raese probably now needs the money after his abortive recent campaign in able to retreat to sunny Florida and his yacht where he can relax and have a cup of tea in comfort.
My purchase of a newspaper must be something special. And I couldn't think of anything more special than a nurse being awarded a prison to apply her special nursing skills. The headline was certainly titillating for inquiring, if somewhat dirty, minds like mine. I decided now was the time to part with fifty cents to read the rest of the story, Paul Harvey fashion.
I should have kept my fifty cents and applied it to an old folks' coffee at Mickey Dee's! Reading the body of the story I found the nurse wasn't being awarded a prison for any special nursing skills, but was being sent to one for an improper act with an inmate in one, which I assumed violated the higher cannons of the nursing profession, or maybe the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act. My major concern at the moment was moaning the loss of my fifty cents.
I once was exposed to journalism - alas, I never caught it - but I learned early on, not by textbook or lecture, but commonsense, that a newspaper can't exist unless it makes money, which means subscribers, or dolts like me who drop fifty cents, which in turn entices advertisers who pay money.
This revelation never came up in journalism class. We were led to believe that the newspaper existed solely for the public right to know, to keep government subservient, and to protect the American way of life.
There was, however, a certain degree of coldness between those in the news writing curriculum and those in advertising.
I once served time in a leading Morgantown mental institution with a man who had received a law degree from a prestigious university. He had never practiced law, but would bemoan from time to time, especially when reflecting on the noted barrister John Barleycorn, "Justice was never once discussed in class."
Although I began rather legitimately in journalism in my hometown of Glenville, I soon saw little purpose, or put another way, money, following that pursuit.
So, I moved to the fringes, far, far fringes - and here you might hear the theme song from the Twilight Zone playing - to a more rewarding, if not morally debasing, enrollment in The Payroll.
In that profession, some say next to the world's oldest, that which was distilled in journalism class went into reverse: The public had only the right to know what we told it, often through the ghostly mouths of those entrusted with guarding the American way of life, and only through their "office of public relations." Maybe you see a relationship to my misconstrued newspaper headline?
As Roger Miller once exclaimed dolefully in song: "Dang, dang me, they ort to take a rope and hang me." I often recall that refrain as I trudge to the bank with my meager, although possibly more than I deserve, pension check.
But all this leads to another vital issue. Who today needs newspapers, magazines, or other so geekly put "hard copy"?
One night recently Bob Weaver and I were in a telephone conversation, sort of an annual Christmas tradition. We were lamenting the failing circulation of newspapers and magazines and how we receive solicitations begging us to subscribe, and if we do, perhaps receive a premium of some sort, much as banks once gave away for our money before the government took over that role. Computers were killing a way of life, we both agreed.
Bob and I both were pondering that in the future kids probably wouldn't know how to read anyway except for some twitter of their own. Then the thought struck me: Didn't the Hur Herald begin a move more than ten years ago to the realm we were berating?
There was a pause on the line, which at both Bob's and my age some might assume a "senior moment," but I with the times call a "Microsoft moment," before he replied that, by golly, yes that was true. Here we are, two old codgers, crying about the demise of journalism as we know it, and you are reading about it on this machine of the Devil which is the tool of destruction!
We also discussed how unappreciative you readers are as you seldom respond with praise for the witty and clever things we write. As any writer knows, and so few will admit, the reason for writing is to stroke one's ego, which with most writers is woefully lacking. (Some writers insist on pay, but that is heavily outweighed by those who are willing to pay for the privilege.)
It's been a while since I called on you unfeeling readers for ego fulfillment, and so few of you have noticed! However, for one loyal groupie, if I may, who has followed me faithfully from the days of the West Virginia Hillbilly, I dedicate this renewal column. John Gutermuth, in ice-choked Atlanta, this budding piece is for you, as you donate to the Herald and ask for so little in return.