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The Decline of Journalism

January 30, 2012

The decline of journalism during this Interregnum between the reign of the print newspaper and whatever follows next is, I think, a serious issue for our democracy.

 

It’s not often fun to read the news, but our participation as readers is important. Maybe Sunday morning isn’t the best time, but that’s when our paper shows up. Look what pops up in just a few minutes on a quiet Sunday morning:

 

America has more people in “corrections” than Stalin had in his gulags. How did that happen?

 

We have millions of kids on Ritalin, etc., for attention deficit disorder even though the momentary effects don’t seem to translate into long-term improvements of any kind. Did we really think amphetamines on top of cell phones and Twitter will help children gain the skill of concentration?

 

Not far from Ritalin or Huxley’s “Soma” is a speculative morality pill. As an ethicist writes, if the brains of people who ignore the suffering of others are somehow different, at least in that moment, perhaps brain science will offer ways to change this behavior.

 

Of course, there are ways to do that now, and what might be the unintended consequences of altering the spectrum for free will? If you remember the German mountaineer Heinrich Harrer who wrote “Seven Years in Tibet,” he found if nearly impossible to build a road because the Tibetan workers continually stopped work to move insects out of the way.

 

That’s a pretty sweet picture, actually, and did they really need a road, anyway? The news can be fascinating to consume. If it opens rather than closes your mind, then good.

 

Fortunately, most of us have the capacity to feel joy regardless of what others are doing around us. Taking a break from the newspaper, Stella and L and I spent the rest of the morning snowshoeing. Well, Stella’s a dog, so she chased sticks, with great concentration and joy.

 

Sometimes, we need to look away from paper or an electronic screen, and get away from the words in our heads. Take a look at creation: The library’s current art exhibition is a rich show of fiber art by Kate Cox and Miriam Basart.

 

The pieces in the show are lovely images as well as things—you want to touch them or hold them. It’s easy to imagine the quiet concentration that went into making them. That could be a fantasy of mine. They may well have been made with music blaring in the background and phone at the ear.

 

Both artists were born in Britain. This may inform their work in some ways. Kate Cox has a beautiful piece called “Sunset on the Thames.” Her painterly pieces refute the grade-school judgment that she was “no good at art.”

 

Kate is a co-owner of The Courtyard Gallery in Buena Vista, and her work can also be seen at Gallery 150 in Salida.

 

Miriam Basart’s work is influenced by her childhood in war-torn London during which children went to school in striped sweaters composed of fragments of other hand-knitted garments.

 

Thus, you’ll find a picture in applique and embroidery called “Wrapped Buildings” made of used clothing. Then, in a twist of that approach, you’ll find “Flotsam and Jetsam” made from artist’s canvas painted and then ripped and reassembled.

 

The variety of excellent fiber art in our valley is remarkable. I hope you’ll spend some time with this beautiful show.

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