I was attending San Francisco State, in the Creative Writing department, or that is, I was for a while. I discovered that the classes interfered with my writing about as much as they helped. And at about that time, my mother, from whom I sponged funds for this education, lost most of her money in the stock market, so I had to stop the school, which was fine with me.
Every morning, I had a routine.
Every morning, before writing on my novel for 2-3 hours, I went to the doughnut shop across the street. There I consumed coffee, doughnuts, and the newspaper.
I’d never been really interested in the newspaper, but I figured that since it was full of news stories, maybe there would be some stories that I could turn into short stories and novel material.
I read the newspaper every morning for one year, pretty much from front page to back page. I skipped the international news, and skimmed lots of things. What I learned was that there is precious little of dramatic interest in the news.
Oh, sure, there was lots of stuff that happened: This guy shot, that building burned, that automobile wrecked. But generally, though the stories were of tragic happenings, and written so as to be upsetting, so what?
In the year, I found one story about an old man who became confused by some hooligans, and shot a teenager with a 22 rifle by accident. This was an interesting story; nothing else was interesting during the year of stories.
Finally, one day as I loooked at the newspaper in the vending machine, the penny dropped. I realized that the folks who operate newspapers intentionally make the visible front page as alarming as possible.
In other words, these are people who are willing to upset the hell out of you for twenty-five cents.
When I was a kid, and later, I saw movies, I saw television dramas about the noble profession of journalism. It seemed important, and good. Now I’d ask: why?
What’s noble about it? How does the (upsetting) news help you? How is your day enriched by knowing that The Mauler has struck again on 23rd Street? Are these people telling the actual news, or are they just upsetting you for twenty-five cents?
I say the hell with it.