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Blaming the messengers again


WHAT'S HAPPENING with the "information highway" is that more people are learning less than ever before.

When people don't read, they blame the newspapers for slanting the news. It is difficult because it is the reader, not the reporter, who calls the tune when it comes to news. If I write that Hong Kong has developed its own atomic bomb, the reader says, "Why is he bothering me with this junk?"

If, on the other hand, Princess Diana is accused of having an affair with her horse trainer, the subscriber says, "We'll take everything you can give us."

The only reason for the existence of newspapers is to make money for the owners. The more readers a newspaper has, the more freight the paper can bill the advertisers. In order to attract these readers, newspapers have to feed stuff that the people will salivate over.

At the same time as the readers are gorging themselves on O.J. stories, they are complaining that they are sick and tired of reading gossip and innuendo and wish we would all get serious.

I was at a dinner in Georgetown the other night where everyone started to pick on the press.

"Why don't you write something positive about the Clintons?" Marty Herrold asked me.

"Because if we did you wouldn't read it," I told her.

"That's not a good reason," Marty said.

"Readers expect fairness from their papers, and we're not getting it when all you tell us is the dirt about the British royals."

Stuart Weisberg said, "The only news we get about the government is when a politician sexually harasses someone in his office. Why don't you praise Congress for what they do?"

"What have they done that I should praise them?"

There was dead silence at the table. Then Stuart added, "You could think of something."

I said, "You believe that journalists are corrupt. This is far from the truth. We don't need money because all of us have trust funds from our grandparents. The only thing we can be bought with is flattery. If someone makes a nice remark about a story, we'll go into the tank for them for a whole year."

The Rev. Robert Hoffman Naylor rose from the table, "I would like to propose a prayer not for the news people in Washington but for the thousands of citizens in this town who leak to them. To the unwashed snitches -- God bless them one and all."

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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