The Futurist Case for Fuck, Shit and Sentence Frags

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People used to say human knowledge doubled every seven years when I was breaking into journalism in the 1990s, but futurists claim the breakneck pace of change is probably closer to every year now.

Instead of wondering if computers can replace human reporters, columnists and editors in this climate of rapid change, news industry leaders should be asking themselves how they can transform their newsrooms into adaptive environments that embrace change. Rather than ignoring it.

Clickbait, list stories, and scripted television interviews are a step backward toward the kind of simplistic, generic writing which can be done by apps. Not forward, toward the kind of creative, human, entertaining and enlightening work readers crave.

Three outmoded journalism tenets are on my mind this morning as I reflect on the mainstream news media’s aversion to meaningful change: 

1) The lingering aversion to combining traditional blowjob beats, like sports and fashion, with business and politics at a time when business and politics are pervasive.

2) The equally ludicrous aversion to foul language.

3) The prohibition on sentence fragments.

Ignoring politics and business in other beats is Loony Tunes in a global economy dominated by financial markets, political corruption and class warfare. There is no escaping the painful truth that business and politics now pervade everything from sports to religion.

Instead of having specialists who cover things like “the business of sports,” every sports reporter should have the ability to cover the intersection of these two very different beats. Same goes for politics in the era when headlines are routinely being made by President Donald Trump  as he bashes LeBron James and other professional athletes for failing to advance the myth that all is well in the world.

By the same token, there are economics reporters and political reporters who still cling to the illusion those beats are separate. They’re not (fragment). 

I will always remember the economics editor on my team in Washington, D.C., who refused to cover the intersection of economic indicators and politics during the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush. When those indicators were being politicized (fragment).

That talented editor could have done a lot of good by adapting to the changing world around him. Instead of ignoring the challenges and opportunities it presented to him.

Same guy also could not adapt to a world where colleagues didn’t care about his sexual orientation any more. Habitually referring to his hubby as “baby” when he called home from work in a needless attempt at social camouflage (fragment).

This kind of “it’s always been this way” thinking is the enemy of both change and constructive adaptation.

Geedub’s crew of paid liars was under-counting job destruction and overstating job creation every month in 2005-2006 to a degree not seen before – as evidenced by the staggering monthly revisions needed to correct their misrepresentations. The Bushies were also vigorously ignoring the housing bubble inflating on their watch. Just as they ignored the rise of Al Quaeda and decline of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

That’s why we attacked Iraq after 9/11, instead of the Saudis who launched, planned and bankrolled the 2001 terror attacks. The mere fact that Saddam had been our enemy before was enough to reflexively assume he was again for many fearful Americans.

Sadly, he wasn’t (fragment).

The painful truth is that there is no safe “we’ve always done it this way” mindset any more. Not in politics, not in journalism and not anywhere else (fragment). Instead of reflexively clinging to tradition, journalists need to adapt our traditions to the present.

One of those changes is eliminating the habitual prohibition on the use of foul language. The days of getting amped up over someone using “suck” are long gone. Same goes for “fuck” (sentence fragment).

Why?

Because that’s how people speak now and we should write for our readers. Not for our sources and advertisers.

Readers curse. As in, “good curse words like fuck and shit are just about the only thing the faltering middle class has left now and I’m not giving mine up.

When foul language works we should employ it; when beats intersect we should cover them; when sentence fragments are obviously connected to the preceding line we should use them; and when politicians act like lying fascist dictators we should call them by the right name. Instead of buying into the self serving, right-wing nonsense that Nazi comparisons are inherently unfair.

They’re not.

Ignoring change in our fast-changing world is the road to failure. Yet many Americans are doing exactly that. Case in point, our alter-kaker-in-chief, who won the Oval Office by promising people a return to a simpler and more racist, sexist and homophobic time.

He passes this idiocy off as a kind of political philosophy called “Make America Great Again.”

As if (fragment).

It’s not like the pace of change is going to slow if we embrace this kind of risk averse isolationism. Can you imagine if the first sea creatures to walk on land had made like Trump, spit the evolutionary bit, and returned to the sea?

An American futurist named Buckminster Fuller created something called the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” in 1982 as a way of measuring the speed with which all human knowledge doubled. He used all knowledge up to the Year 1 as the base unit. It took 1,500 years for it to double the first time and 250 years for it to double the second time.

“He noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century,” . “By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.”

IBM predicted in 2006 that the “build out” of  The Internet eventually would lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

A gutless news media serves no one in this climate of pervasive change. It’s time to stop assuming journalism is still relevant and make ourselves fucking relevant again.

Step No. 1?

Grow some nuts people.

Step. No 2?

Stop trying to please everyone and stop apologizing when we come up short.

Good journalism isn’t for everyone. Neither is evolution. The piece of shit in The White House proves that if nothing else.

Back in the day, before the Internet, I used to delight in explaining how the world really worked to the alter-kakers who would call into the newsroom. They’d rail about Reagan or Bush or whichever political snake oil salesman was living inside their pointy heads at the time and how we were being unfair to them. AKA how we weren’t mindlessly regurgitating their lies.

“Uh sir,” I’d say, “I think I know how we can solve this problem.”

“How?” they’d ask, taking the bait.

“Well, see, what you could do is go and buy a printing press of your own and start you own news organization,” I’d say in the maddenly polite voice I reserve for Trumplickers and the developmentally disabled. “Then you could write whatever you like. Have a nice day.”

Click.

Worked for me.

The only thing which has changed since then is that you no longer need a printing press to self publish. All you need is a keyboard.

 

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