Friday, December 13, 2013

Part Seventy-Seven, Chapter Three - Alien News is Hella Boring

It turns out that you might want to learn how an alien society's media works before you start playing it like a piano to make some guy a famous dead outlaw, in case it turns out to actually be a tuba.

The reporters Madison sent out return around midnight, standing around like "lost wool animals" because the author recently remembered that an alien historian is supposed to be writing this.  None of the editors they visited were interested in their stories and were baffled by the idea of "handouts."  So the next day Madison decides to try and handle things personally, paying a visit to the Daily Speaker's publisher, Noble Arthrite Stuffy, who just happens to be Lord Snor's cousin.

It goes badly.  Stuffy sees no point to Madison's promise that his sensational stories would increase circulation, since they already have more subscribers than they can easily handle, and the paper doesn't carry advertisements.  I think this civilization skipped the internet on its way to harnessing black holes and synthesizing matter.

Madison threatens to use a Royal order to get this paper to carry his stories, but...

"Hah," said Stuffy.  "You just get your Royal order and I will get you a revolution as quick as blink.  Seventy thousand years ago a monarch tried to force papers to report the soirees of his commoner mistress and they even erased his name from history.  Royal order!  Oh, this will be rich when I mention it at luncheon at my club to other publishers."

They went full damnatio memoriae on a king for leaning on a newspaper?!  Conquering planets because a piece of paper told you to is fine, mind-rape helmets are fine, but nondescript space gods forbid you try and get a paper to carry a press release about the nobody you're (bleeping).

The best come-back Madison can muster is to threaten to start his own paper, with blackjack, and hookers, but the publisher sneers that "There hasn't been a new newssheet started in fifteen thousand years.  Try it and the other papers will buy up all the available paper and leave you nothing to print on but gutter stones."  So it sounds like 1) Voltar's print media is in cahoots to quash any competition, which may explain why they can charge prices high enough to survive without printing ads, and 2) nobody's heard of a digital edition.

Madison tries some other venues but gets the same response, learning that there's about seventy-five space papers with chains spanning the whole Confederacy.  He tries to get in touch with Homeview's news section, but learns that they don't have one: they just repeat the headlines of print news.

He had an idea that what he was up against was that curse of the PR profession, journalistic truth. Long, long ago, on Earth,

When?  The scary thing about journalism is how relatively recent the concept of objectivity and professionalism is - some of the first papers in America were political rags, and then there was the whole yellow journalism phase (sorry Spain!).  It was only after World War One that journalism really matured, and you can argue that it's been in another decline since the Bush II years.  So less than a century of quality journalism, all told.

they used to talk about it to graduates in journalism.  But these days, they even awarded Pulitzer Prizes for the most false story of the year.  The Voltarians, with all this nonsense about sources and accuracy, were definitely on the wrong road: even the corniest weekly in Podunk could give them lessons.

And now Madison starts flipping through newssheets, seeing how they work and what stories they cover.  And it's just horrifying: "NEW MONUMENT DEDICATED," "LADY PROMPTON ORPHANAGE SPEECH IN FULL," "WIFE OF LORD ELD GIVES PINK SPARKLEWATER PARTY," and forth.  See, noble bimbos' soirees are totally newsworthy.

The only non-crap stories are reports of that little civil war on Calabar or young lovers' romantic suicides and such, so there's some hope, but overall Madison can only mentally shout "WHAT A BACKWARD CIVILIZATION!"  It's up to him to apply some good old American know-how and revolutionize this culture's mass media!

Although his determination was strong, he knew he needed more than that.  He needed some point of entrance to penetrate this media wall.

He went to bed and stared at the ceiling.  No ideas.  Eventually, he slept.

...Or he'll go to bed.

I can't help but feel that Madison's not the only one who ran out of ideas and called it a day.

Back to Chapters One and Two 

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