Monday, April 13, 2009
Signs of the Times: For Better and for Worse
HALLIE: Signs of economic downturn are everywhere:
- I call a stone mason about getting a chimney repaired. He comes that day to give me an estimate and does the work the next.
- The lights have gone out on the Zakim bridge.
- “Cash for gold” ads are popping up everywhere.
- Worst of all, my newspaper is shrinking and threatening to disappear entirely.
I shudder to imagine life without my daily Boston Globe. We call it “the paper” (not “the screen”) for a reason. I love the whole unwieldy thing, from front page to editorials to local news, from sports to crossword puzzle. What would I do without local arts coverage (including my very own On Crime column)? I save the comics to read last, like I saved the cherry in fruit cocktail to eat last. Like visits with old friends I read “For Better or for Worse,” “Rhymes with Orange,” and catch up with the hilarious Alice and her jaundiced take on the world in “Cul de Sac.” I like it that my fingers are stained black by the time I rinse my cereal bowl.
More horrifying, what will the world be without reporters? Okay, they didn’t do such a great job sussing out those nonexistent Iraqi WMDs, but our local pols would have a lot more cover without the Globe reporters’ probing and poking.
I just hope we hit bottom before it’s too late to rebound.
RHYS: Hallie, I agree. Somehow the news on the computer and TV can never replace the newspaper. However, I think that newspapers are digging their own graves at the moment. As they cut back they are letting reporters go, so that they are manned by a skeleton staff and most of their news stories come in on the wire. I can get those stories online. I want the personal take on the mayor's misbehavior, the quirky local story, the blistering editorial--and the great reviews. I want the paper to reflect my community and that has almost gone, I'm afraid.
ROBERTA: One scary sign of the times seems to be an increase in robberies. My sister reports that in her Florida (nice but not fancy middle-class folks) neighborhood, they are experiencing 3 to 4 break-ins PER WEEK! Wow, that's scary. My town too, is reporting more crime. It scares me that the common law of do not steal is becoming less common as people lose jobs and get desperate.
RO: I'm cutting back on diet red bull. Those babies go for $5 a can at the airport. Seriously...personally, I did my tour differently this year..I've embraced my La Quinta Rewards status. I ate at a Big Boy (once.) I remember to ask for the AAA rate. I've turned down the thermostat in my house (which is a big deal since the house is mostly glass.) In my neighborhood, I haven't seen too many changes except some of the For Sale signs which have been there forever.
I read the NYTimes Book Review today and it was frighteningly slim because so few publishers were advertising. I'd be very bummed if the Globe or the New York Times went away. First of all where would I get the ideas for my books ;-) but really...the news online just doesn't feel like the real news to me. And what about all those great articles you read that you never would have known about if some editor hadn't decided to put them in the paper?
I worry that the news will be all Octomom, all the time.
HALLIE: Now that's a nightmare.
JAN: The worst part about losing any local paper, but especially the Boston Globe, will be the loss of the Investigative AdTeam. In a one-party state like Massachusetts, the investigative team is incredibly important in keeping a check on political corruption.
But I refuse to be completely negative. Some positive signs of the time may be the flourishing of energy and fuel conservation -- the end of suburban Hummers and the non-stop summer buzz of air conditioning units!
HANK: Transition is always difficult, huh? We live in interesting times, right in the middle of such enormous changes. Tumultuous. And who's to say what's "good"?. Remember when there were only 3 tv stations, sometimes a fuzzy fourth? Now there are 900. Is that good? Bad? I can't believe all the closed stores.
I think people a being a bit nicer to each other. There's not such a sense of greed. Yes, the shocking economy--which might be getting better?--has caused immense harm to people's lives. Some way,we'll all have to regroup and then maybe come out better.
My second grandson, Josh!, was born Friday! He's great, and his mom is fine. And his dad. We all just have to make sure the world is the best possible one for him. And Hallie, thanks for the kind words about reporters.
HALLIE: Well, our kids having kids is absolutely a 'sign of the times' - Congratulations Hank! And let's hear it for fertility, which I hear is trending downward.
On another up-note, Saturday I got my hair cut (Yay, Salon Capri in Hyde Park) and the owner Gina was saying customers no longer complain if there's a wait...they're just so pleased to see the place doing such a brisk business.
So, good and not so good, what signs are you seeing of these transitional times?