Why is one always left with the sense of half a loaf from local reporting? Stories will go on for pages, even for days, without ever connecting the dots or providing a true context. They may beg the Big Picture — the overriding trend or practice that might actually make us care; instead we get the Little Picture. Crackers and cheese instead of the prime rib.
On The Times side, today’s banner is about a humble Sammamish vendor who makes fire-resistant t-shirts for the military. Seeking to expand his business from the Army to the Marines, the guy ran into InSport, a big corporation whose megadollars lobbied an “earmark” for t-shirt contracts — can you believe this — without a bidding process. Welcome to our post-Halliburton, no-bid-contract world…although the story doesn’t actually go all Big Picture like that. What we have instead is the reliance on polite talk for corrupt practices: bribes and kickbacks become earmarks and sole-source contracts. I for one would be interested in this guy’s suggestion about what to do, and how he might vote in 2008. Make me care…heck, make him care about the story.
Of course, even relatively tame investigations like this won’t happen under media consolidation, which is set to go forward today despite near-universal opposition at public hearings, in congressional hearings and from anyone with half a brain. In the hmmm dept., the story got A1 treatment from The Times and nary a Top 10 mention from the P-I. For today’s Reader Quiz and the chance to win a trip on the purple streetcar, can you tell me which newspaper is locally owned?
The P-I does, however, wring its hands over the closing of the Crocodile, days after anyone who cares knew about it (or suspected its imminency), the taxonomy of the scoop (I think it was The Weekly this time) somehow escaping the pit-bullish reportorial skills of the newspaper staff: “Word of the closure spread like wildfire Monday through the city’s music blogs…” Oh come on. I told my daughter about this last Thursday. And no mention of the Big Picture here either: The Showbox gets sold, the Croc shuts down. Other than being small crowded venues for up and coming bands but sitting on prime real estate prized by greedy developers, they have nothing in common.
The Times also takes a stab at relevancy with an update on the let-nature-run-its-course theory of disaster management. Dot not connected: Floods are hardly a “natural” occurrence, as The Times itself showed Sunday with the Chehalis debacle. “Flood risk is only going to get worse, scientists say. That’s because of two converging trends: climate change and development…” How about the trends of “insatiable greed” and “self-destructive stupidity”? Too Big Picture…
Finally, we bring you a new feature, inspired by Goldy’s and my debate yesterday, the Local Headline That Ran Elsewhere. Today’s donor is The New York Times, whose lead Business Day coverage, The Price of Growing Fuel, features a Portland brewery owner looking really disgusted at the skyrocketing price of barley. Also pinched by a hop shortage, some breweries are even going out of business, leaving us HAs with lamentably fewer places to cry in our beer. With that, we provide a radio segue only a true aural rebel like Goldy would ever use, to our weekly reminder for Drinking Liberally…Darryl, take it away!!!