A sunny springtime Sunday and I woke as Gregor Samsa, only this time as a giant slug. You may know the feeling if you’re large and old. Got me to thinking, in the olden times, at this stage I am dead meat. Something sleek and swift would be having me for brunch, just about guaranteed. I could run but I couldn’t hide, and, OK, I couldn’t run, either. Whatever would just have its way with the ol’ moi lard and gristle, the supersized residue of too many fried potatoes and too much rented beer. Wouldn’t be pretty but it wouldn’t last long.
Belaboring the obvious
As the Little Rock murder rate soared last week, Mayor Jim Dailey called a news conference to announce that residents of the city need to find a way to resolve their differences that doesn’t involve shooting one another.
Spoken with the confidence that comes from knowing that you could get an amen on that one from just about anybody, even insane people, or demented televangelists, or Scientologist actors, or others without a lick of sense, like Alice Stewart.
He did risk censure by the NRA, which would’ve wondered what he had against firearms: If Little Rockers are going to kill each other anyway, why not with guns? How else can you get the job done and affirm a constitutional right at the same time?
“We don’t consider the Arkansas Times a news operation,” Alice Stewart, press aide to the governor, smarted off one day last week. Elsewhere this same Alice Stewart was said to have said that she and the governor don’t consider the Arkansas Times a “legitimate” news organization.
The governor himself chimed in eventually on this stupid theme, who the hell knows why. They didn’t damn the Arkansas Times to fiery perdition but that seemed to be the drift.
You might wonder what was going on, what they had on their feebles. Here at the Times we wondered too. I mean, all the legendary statehouse ’gogues used to diss critical newpapers but they always did it for a reason, usually a dastardly one, and with some style. It was never such pointless unentertaining crap as this.
Apparently they’d been stewing, and wanted to share the notion that this little handout horsefly newspaper is an illegitimate non-news operation for reasons multitudinous, one of them being that we commit such heinous crimes against conventional journalism as allowing reporters to insert their personal opinions into our quote unquote news stories. Or they wanted somebody to agree with that notion. Or they wanted somebody to give a rat’s ass.
We have committed that offense occasionally in 30 years of covering Arkansas news, true enough. But we never meant nothing by it. Never tried to fool anybody by simultaneous fair and balanced protestations and such. For another example, we never salaamed at objectivity while romancing the Boy Martyr on the high page or burying pretzel-headed defenses of Orval Faubus at Central High in the ed beat copy. We just sort of let the chips fall, no apologies, and if that’s bad, then aye, our bad, our bad. …
(Hold that thought for a moment. A washing machine pipe just broke and hot sudsy rinse water is sloshing across the kitchen and dining room floor like the ’27 Mississippi River flood. Jeez, I need to sandbag levees or do some damned thing. I’ll be back….)
OK, only took a couple hours, so where were we? I think I was about to wax platitudinous. To assure Loyal Reader that the Arkansas Times really and truly is a genuine, bona fide news operation, despite what these gubernator soreheads would have you believe. I know that’s the truth because I’ve given 20-odd years to reviewing the evidence.
News by the buttload has passed through these somber pages. News that was sometimes stale but nearly always presented in earnest. A formidable byline roster lacks hardly any of the deserving names. While I was bailing and mopping and oathing and slipping and falling and ranching my back there in the other room a while ago, I was trying to decide which names on that roster were my favorites. The kid from Texarkana who styled himself the Armey Archerd of the Arklatex. The crackerbarrel nonagenarian from an Ozarks hamlet that had passed from existence nearly a century before. The elusive and cosmic Omo Fevers Bartlett. Bauxite football games 25 years after they were played were news to us. We ran poems with metaphors that were so wretched that we thought they amounted to news. We ran so much news about the news — notably the newspaper war — that it got to be just pitiful. Our bird news — no brag, just fact — was as good as bird news gets.
Back in better times than these, even the future governor saw us in a kinder light. He was a good source in our coverage of such news stories as the struggle between the crazies and the not-quite-as-crazies for control of the Southern Baptist Convention. Sometimes, sometimes we wonder what happened to that nice preacher-feller, no such grasper then, Jekyll before Hyde crawled out.