Friday, January 5, 2018

The Worst of Times?

The weekly newspaper I write for recently devoted an entire issue to The Worst of 2017. All of the writing staff contributed ideas for what we thought were the worst news stories of the year, but there were some ground rules. Our publisher declared that topics such as national politics, mass shootings, the Russia investigation, foreign policy, President Trump, and the #MeToo movement were off limits. We didn’t ignore these topics during the year, but felt that they were still getting a lot of media attention.

It was a fun issue to work on, and I got to contribute several stories. We took a look at things that had more of a local impact, but a couple of us wrote about subjects that fell into the “I can’t believe someone did that” category. One that I had fun with involved Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster joining forces to rip off her fans. The gist of the scam is that if her fans (or Swifities, as they’re called) spend money on Taylor Swift merchandise through her website, they supposedly increase their chances of getting good concert seats. Considering that her tickets start out at $300-plus, I hope that $45.00 t-shirt moves someone closer to the front of the line.

Another piece was about the pervasion of stink bugs. Yes, you read that correctly. I snagged that one, too, and it wound up as the cover story. I’ve often said that writing for this paper has broadened my knowledge about things I didn’t know much about, but I never really wanted to become an expert on stink bugs. Go ahead and ask me anything you’d like to know about this pestilence. I probably have the answer.

I was also assigned to write a commentary on what I thought was one of the most polarizing events in the country this past year. That was the peaceful protest turned ugly riot in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. Rather than analyze the event, I focused on what has happened in this quaint southern town since then. Luckily my nephew lives in Charlottesville, so I was able to get some good input on how the community is recovering.

One of the stories we featured was about the changes to language this past year. It was a team effort, and there were certain words and phrases that we all agreed should be taken out of the lexicon. Youthquake was one, along with “tremendous,” “superb,” “best ever,” and “fake news.” Those last four were courtesy of our President, who also overuses the word “I.” Other irritating examples were “nothing-burger,” “pre-owned,” “drill down,” and Trump’s Twitter typo “covfefe.” The actual writer of the story predicted that the dreaded “F” word would soon find it’s way to the free TV and radio airwaves, since the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently began allowing the use of that word after 10:00 pm. Not a trend I’m anxious to see.

Speaking of debate topics, there are a few that I turn down because I feel that they’re too controversial and I don’t want my name attached. Others get a pass from me if I can’t work up any enthusiasm that goes beyond “yes” or “no.” One that I did accept this past year resulted in my getting some pushback from a few readers. This was after Hugh Hefner passed away, and we debated whether or not he had contributed anything significant to society. I said yes, and pointed out that there was more to his legacy than Playboy Bunnies and centerfolds. You should’ve seen some of the e-mails I got after that one hit the stands! It’s been a long time since anyone has called me a chauvinist pig, or a Libertarian. For the record, I am neither of those.

Here’s hoping that all of us have a wonderful New Year, and that it’s a damn sight better than the one we just left behind.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author of romantic mystery/thrillers and contemporary erotic romance. His website is www.timsmithauthor.com.


Tina Donahue said...

I'm surprised the truly important issues of our time - galloping Fascism, corporatism, income inequality, the mess in Washington, police brutality, global warming, banksters, monopolies, endless war for profit (so what if we kill innocent people?), the upcoming crash (yes, it will happen), automation taking 50% or more jobs, stagnated wages, etc. - weren't allowed because they'd already been covered. Really? Not in the MSM that's owned by the 1%. Those issues are glossed over in favor of what the Kardasians are doing.

Some might think it's cute to focus on Taylor Swift's antics, but she's protected by her celebrity and wealth. 99% of Americans have no real hope for the American Dream as they once did. Current times are as bad as, if not worse, than when the robber barons ruled this country.

Perhaps if the press had done their job these last 40 years and defended democracy instead of printing puff pieces about celebrities to increase their bottom line, we'd still have a free press and wouldn't be facing the mess we are.

Tim Smith said...

Tina, I'm in complete agreement with everything you said. As for the topics we weren't allowed to include in that issue, what can I say--the publisher wanted a different focus. That was unfortunate, because I was ready to rip into some of the subjects you listed. As I mentioned, we did cover those during the past year.

The Taylor Swift piece was more of a hatchet job, because I think what she's doing really stinks, and is capitalism at its worst. I've since heard from readers who agreed with me and didn't know that was happening.

Thanks for the great response!

jean hart stewart said...

I get too discouraged at times to comment as much as I should. Wish I had one of those magic wands we learned about as children. So much needs changed.....