John Colson: Hit and Run | AspenTimes.com
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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

There’s been an awful lot written and said lately about the impending death of the daily newspaper, a prospect that I find as personally frightening as the idea of living in a world with no sun.

And it must be said on behalf of newspapers, just as Mark Twain once remarked about his books and literary career, “The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.”

Still ” and this might not come as a surprise to anyone ” the future of big daily newspapers, or lack thereof, has been a constant, nagging drumbeat of anxiety in the back of my mind lately.

Fortuitously, I’ve just discovered a small hatch underneath my back deck that leads to an alternate universe, where they happened never to develop a newspaper industry. Not enough trees is the likely reason, I’ve concluded from my visits there.

This alternate universe has radio, but it’s mostly popular music, bad comedy, madcap mysteries and stupid jingles. There is no National Public Radio network, possibly because there never were any newspapers to train the public that it needed a daily dose of news to go with that cup of coffee and breakfast every morning, or with that cocktail in the evening.

There are no daily comics pages in this universe, since there are no pages, and I found that very troubling.

I mean, I have a hard time imagining life without the curvaceous examples of Blondie Boopadoop (her maiden name as a flapper, before she married Dagwood Bumstead) and Daisy Mae of Dogpatch (whose marriage to Li’l Abner was a crushing disappointment).

Lacking their stimulating influence on my development as a kid, I doubt I would have been at all prepared when the girls at Franklin Elementary School (grades 1 through 8) inexplicably blossomed into, well, GIRLS.

There is nothing approaching the wicked humor of Doonesbury, the cartoon by Gary Trudeau that, possibly more than any other single thing, helped me understand that I wasn’t alone in feeling that politics was a cheap hustle that should be approached with great deliberation and maximum skepticism.

This benighted world has nothing like the New York Times Puzzle, a daily offering of mind-warping word clues, without which my spousal unit undoubtedly would go quite mad and possibly homicidal, with a predictably negative result for yours truly.

Plus, what could Will Shortz possibly do for a living in a world without crossword puzzles? And what would the rest of us do without such dazzling clues as, “Cheese and crackers, maybe” (38 Across in the March 19 edition)?

Without newspapers, would the world have ever known that Richard M. Nixon was a paranoid crook who used his power to subvert the U.S. Constitution?

Or would we know today that the tiny nation of Lithuania is donating a bust of rock ‘n’ roll’s prince of impropriety, Frank Zappa, to the city of Baltimore, where Zappa was born?

Locally speaking, would the citizens of Aspen have had to accept it as a fait accompli when the Aspen Institute gave one of its most hallowed venues the name, The Resnick Auditorium?

Or, more recently, would the citizens ever have known exactly how much is spent by local governments on food for their staffs, volunteers and visiting dignitaries?

Well, maybe, but how that information, and so much else, might have become public knowledge without newspapers is not exactly clear.

And, I should point out, the citizens of the alternate universe, which I have visited infrequently and may never see again, were frankly kind of listless, dull, uninspired and uninspiring. Which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that they don’t read newspapers every day, every week, or ever at all.

But then again, it may have everything to do with it.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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