The Skinny

OUR PREDICTIONS FOR LOCAL NEWS IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM: You can bet it will be boring as hell and twice as insipid.

To the modern ear, "news" implies something "new." But the history of the word indicates that it may actually be an acronym from English shipping days for North, East, West, South -- the points of the compass, get it?

The ancestors of today's modern newspapers arose in England roughly 200 years ago as purveyors of intelligence about the shipping industry and related far-flung commercial ventures.

Needless to say, The Times and technology have changed. In Tucson, a once far-flung outpost of the dreaded (to the uptight English, anyway) Spanish Empire, we have two daily newspapers and three commercial TV stations pumping out what is, by today's standards, adjudged to be "news."

Unfortunately, most of this sloppy bilge lacks the urgency for today's massive and diverse audience that its sharply focused pecuniary-oriented precursor once held for the relative small group of merchants, sailors, investors and underwriters of Not-So-Merry Old England.

Because newspapers -- as well as radio and TV news operations -- are the product of commercial activity and the resultant advertising, and because commercial activity has flourished beyond anyone's wildest imagination over the last two centuries, we have the flabby and inflated "news" products we see today.

Most of this stuff has very little relevance to our lives. And -- here's the dirty little secret you've wasted your time thus far to glean -- much of what passes for news in the local media is really just the same old same old mindlessly repackaged in slightly different form year after fricking year. Big surprise, huh?

What we need is a web site that carries all this seasonal chaff our local media's assignment editors have been fobbing off on their readers, viewers and listeners. Let's free these highly paid pseudo-professionals, these supposed newshounds, to come up with important and meaningful information for a change.

Of course they won't. So here's just a little bit of what you can expect in January, over and over again, in the coming years, as well as the coming decade, and perhaps even the coming millennium:

We've already had the First Baby story and the New Year's Auto Fatalities and Drunk-Driving Arrest Count stories. Thank God those pointless wankers are gone until next year.

Actually, the booze-and-auto carnage stories are a tiresomely recurring theme in our dog-eared local News Almanac. How much better if our self-appointed reportorial geniuses dropped the raw body count approach and did an in-depth profile on each victim. Ooops, sorry, that would take manpower and talent, and, worst of all, it would cost real money! Plus, humanizing each and every unique individual in an endless, horrific stream of crushed and broken bodies would undoubtedly enrage car dealers, who spend mucho advertising bucks with our supposedly unbiased media. Ever notice what a great job these guys do explaining mass transit issues?

First Homicide. With any luck, someone has been stabbed or, more likely, shot to death already this month. We have a question: Why is murder No. 1 in the year 2000 more important than murder No. 63?

Dieting! Instead of the annual self-loathing sessions administered by emaciated TV news anchors pretending to give advice to their tubby, telly-addicted audience, we suggest a fresh start with a totally new subject. How 'bout an annual flurry of stories about Holiday Farting Syndrome? All that rich food and heightened family tension demands after-party relief. Hey, we're only trying to help.

Snow! Yes, boys and girls, sometimes it snows in the desert this time of year! And when it does, we can count on our daily media to tell us about it, in endless, minute detail. Beats covering real news.

Snowbirds! Every year they come rolling back to roost, and every year the media is full of little stories about them and how much money these white-haired saints of leisure pump into the local economy, and how we need to be real nice to our special, seasonal friends. We suggest that the media concentrate on giving us an alternative view on these people -- just for a year or two. "Hideous Bastard Snowbirds" would make a great news series, and we might even learn how to be the sort of grasping, money-grubbing types who could one day afford to spend the lousy part of the year elsewhere once we've outlived our usefulness.

Assignment Desk Tip: We were told by an old guy who claims to have seen him that Al Capone was apparently one of the most infamous snowbirds to alight surreptitiously in Tucson during the previous century. (Yes, as a matter of fact, it does feel slightly odd to describe the 20th century that way.)

Flu Attack! Every year people get sick. And every year the media waste a great deal of ink and airtime telling us about it. If they must depress us, why not treat it like the weather? The newspapers could handle this misery in chart form, under the weather map. And when it comes to TV news, God knows there's no actual weather around here, so why not have a Communicable Disease Segment instead? "Well, Ms. Pickle, the extended forecast calls for several more deaths before our local flu season is over. During our regular segment, we'll also have a report on the surge in Hepatitis C back east--" It's different, we like it, and the graphics possibilities are interesting, too.

And remember, kiddies, next month is Sexually Transmitted Disease Month!

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