I am an inveterate news junkie. This is an addiction acquired and honed during 14 years spent in three newsrooms – two daily papers and one group of weeklies – where accessing multiple versions of the latest news was not only easy, but usually part of my job.
It’s been three-and-a-half years since I’ve made a living as a newspaper editor. The pull of being in-the-know is just as strong, but the news out there waiting to be consumed is so completely depressing that I approach each source – now mostly online – with a mixture of eagerness, dread and resignation.
The alarming quality of the news itself is only made worse by the changes in the way it’s delivered. Without a TV, I’d be immune from the incessant din of cable “news,” except that the online news outlets also need new content 24/7. So while I’m not able, thank God, to watch Glenn Beck, I can still read all about his latest jaw-dropping fiction almost every time I scan msnbc.com. He’s leaving Fox News, but it can’t be soon enough.
Newspapers are slipping into the abyss. Friends and former colleagues have been laid off and furloughed as staffs and budgets are whittled to nothing. Recently the New York Times started charging for unlimited online access. I’ve appreciated being able to read the paper online without charge, and while I understand that they need to make money so they can stay in business, I’m a single woman with a mortgage, a 15-year-old car, and a job in a field that is facing significant funding cuts itself. One newspaper – my local daily – is all I can manage.
That I am lucky – I have a job, a car and a house – is the worst of all of it. If you’re still tuned into the news, you know that General Electric, the largest corporation in this country, pays absolutely no tax. Congress – and even Vermont, for crying out loud – is cutting fuel aid, education aid, unemployment, food aid – and refusing to ask the wealthiest Americans to contribute another dime. In Vermont, the governor, House and Senate, are all Democratic. Democratic.
What the hell is wrong with us? In 2009, the poorest 80 percent of Americans held just 12.8 percent of the country’s wealth. I read that in Bob Hebert’s most recent column for the New York Times. Free of charge. Unfortunately, that column was his last – he, like a whole host of his colleagues, is leaving the newspaper.
And yet, like a rubbernecker at a car crash, I can’t bring myself to look away. The price of being an informed citizen of the world keeps getting higher in all kinds of ways. For now, at least, I feel obligated to keep paying it.