Friday, June 12, 2009

A different kind of bad news

Has this ever been a bad news day!

No, I’m not talking about just Iranian election results or more car bombs in Pakistan.

The bad news started with an Oregonian’s front-page story telling me that “more than 2 million households are in danger of seeing their major broadcast TV channels disappear into a fuzz of static when analog service ends Friday.”

Danger? Did I read “danger”?

What’s the danger? Suddenly 2 million people have to eat dinner together and converse. The real danger is that a reporter could write such non-sense. Try replacing “in danger of” with “will be inconvenienced by” or possibly “will be irked by.” I personally like "will be potentially enriched by."

Next it is on to my daily feed of Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. There I’m told that it is the birthday of Anne Frank and that her Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has sold more than 25 million copies, and it is “the second-best-selling nonfiction book in history, after the Bible.”

The Bible non-fiction? It certainly has its much-heralded truths, but really, non-fiction?

Parting the Red Sea, the virgin birth, feeding the multitudes, walking on water? Suddenly overheated, mythological metaphor becomes "non-fiction," and no one blinks.

Not even Garrison Keillor.

So it’s now the end of the day and I finally get to New York Times columnist David Brooks. His subject is our stampeding American debt. He writes: “The ratio of debt-to-personal-disposable income was 55 percent in 1960.” He goes on to tell us that “it” (presumably this “ratio”) grew to 133 percent in 2007.

What ratio?

Here’s one of our brainiest columnists writing in one of the world’s most respected newspapers,and he doesn’t know the difference between ratio and percentage.

Worse, neither do his New York Times editors.

All three stories had news, all right. None of it reassuring.

Maybe the food additives and pollution are finally getting to us.

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Blogger AbbotOfUnreason said...

Maybe non-fiction has some other sort of definition. My library has _Million Little Pieces_ in non-fiction.

4:22 AM  

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