CNHI News Service

I know why newspapers, and traditional media in general, are dying: the Oklahoma Legislature.

You see, in the news game, we are taught to follow a story from the beginning to the end and give the final result. Sports writing is the most basic form of journalism: write a snappy first paragraph, or "graf" or "lede" (as in "lead paragraph" and, no, I don't know why we spell "lede" and "graf"), throw in the final score then type the roster so all the parents are happy. Most of the kids don't care but, then again, they're not usually buying the paper.

But the Legislature is impossible to cover through normal means. Based on the behavior of its members, I have identified three jobs the Legislature is charged with: discussing abortion (this requires 75 percent of the regular session); deciding which party gets to hire the doorman (18 percent); and writing a budget (the rest).

Abortion is the perfect example of the Legislature in action: it is the No. 1 topic of discussion so, of course, nothing changes. Everybody has already chosen a side: you either are for killing babies or you're for killing abortionists. There is no middle ground. Yet, lawmakers take up the issue every year.

On the hard-fought doorman issue, the parties finally compromised: House Republicans hired their own doorman and Senate Democrats hired their own "doorperson." They both receive full state benefits and annual 5 percent pay raises.

Then the doorpeople formed a union and now, despite the fact the doors open automatically, they cannot be fired. Since they have lots of extra time, they have registered as lobbyists and are now seeking 10 percent annual raises. And assistant doorpeople.

As for the budget, well, we have one. It was passed 28 days after the end of the session. Let's review: lawmakers met for the better part of four months and couldn't complete the one task that dictates how nearly everything in Oklahoma operates. So they used another month.

Bound by the rules of objectivity, how can you report on a freakshow like the Legislature? How do you explain to the average person what lawmakers are doing?

It can't be done with a straight face, which is why approximately 93.6 percent of Americans now say they get their "news" from "The Daily Show," which has zero news content.

The show is HIGH-larious. That is, in large part, due to the fact it doesn't have to work with news. This puts newspapers at a disadvantage because readers want: 1. stories about themselves; 2. stories about their neighbors (but only the ones they like) or; 3. to be entertained.

This has led to the current situation where The New York Times is derided by all as the house organ of the (insert paranoid fantasy group here) but www.lardbutt.com, run by three 17-year-olds in Effingham, Ill., who post mostly rewrites of skits they saw on "The Daily Show," is lauded as "cutting edge."

I must go now. "The Daily Show" is on and I need to know what my top story will be tomorrow.

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