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For whom the bell tolls.

For years the obits in The New York Times have been masterpieces of journalism. Recently the paper eulogized the last rites of the Seattle Post Intelligencer after more than 100 years of publication. The daily journal is no more.

Have you noticed how many obituaries these days are about the demise of some institution--the shuttering of neighborhood schools, churches, or watering hole, the death of a company, a landmark, a factory, a newspaper? The prevailing doctrine is Social Darwinism, the survival of the fittest in the capitalistic system, the end of an era. If you live long enough, you are bound to see it as we are seeing it now.

Every institution in which I have been vested--radio, television, journalism, education and religion--is in decline, not because they are outdated but because of the mediocrity that prevails in their ranks.

A century ago the St. Louis World's Fair was the harbinger of change--the horse and carriage for the motor car, the kerosene lamp became the light bulb, Morse Code to Marconi's wireless, the balloon for the airplane, windmills for generators. Whatever became of this and that and the other?

There have always been visions of the future. I remember Dick Tracy's radio picture watch. He saw things we never thought we would see--the world up close on your wrist.

And whatever became of the newspaper before it shrank to a tabloid? But it is not the size of the fold--it's what's inside that smells. For the most part this current crop of so-called journalists can't write--style and substance are hard to find and Mike Bush at 5 on 5 pretty well sums up the March of Time and the boredom of the talking head. Where did Deanne Lane go?

Remember William Woo, John McGuire, Jake McCarthy, Bob Duffy, Irving Dilliard, Florence Shinkle, John Lofton and Marianna Riley? They were among the Post's and Globe's stable of good writers. Once the spoken word resonated from the pulpit of the likes of Ferdinand Isserman, Will Scarlet, Sherman Skinner, and George Stevens, when sermons were hot topics over Monday's morning coffee.

When did the lights go out? Today's pedestrian has an iPod in his ear, a television wristwatch, and a cell phone with a camera. He does not have to interact with anyone but himself, He does not have to surface, and he races home to be subsumed into the black hole of cyberspace.

We cannot get that community back. It is gone forever. Only destiny beckons, and another generation will have to reckon with whatever there is to reckon with in matters of social conduct.

Sigmund Freud wrote about the catastrophic mess in his book, "Civilization and Its Discontent." It is about societal depression which is what we are experiencing. Edward R. Murrow summed it up at the end of the his old television show, "See It Now," by saying "Good Night and Good Luck!" At this monumental crossroads that is about all one can say, except God help us and bring in the clown in High Definition.
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Title Annotation:In My View
Author:Tabscott, Robert W.
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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