Flashes 07-06-2000

The Republic of Gannett

The Millennial Arizona Republic will soon be the property of Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the galaxy. Naturally, the Flash has been working the phones to determine the ramifications for you, the reader/consumer/stakeholder/demographic mote.

Experts, pundits, theorists and other nitwits concur: Beyond a comfortable dotage for Chip Weil, Gannett's acquisition of the Republic will mean absolutely nothing.

The Republic, you see, is already heavily Gannettized.

In the Republic of Gannett, space allotted for news is trifling, democracy is considered boring, politics is pigeonholing, management is ovine, banal trends masquerade as news, celebrity is exalted. Certain tax brackets and zip codes -- any that fail to compel car dealers and Realtors -- are quaint figments.

But the apparatchiks and dot-communists who govern the Republic of Gannett feel your pain. You can hear it in their voice-mails, discern it in their postings. Their synergism oozes from the walls.

USA Today isn't known as "McPaper" for nothing. The old industry joke has Gannett winning a Pulitzer for Investigative Paragraph. News stories, by design, are short and sweet and incomplete. Less than nutritious. Reporters whose dispatches are sandblasted to three paragraphs are rewarded with bylines, to their chagrin.

Gen Xers are too distracted to absorb nuance. Don't bore them with detail. Give it to them straight. Or at least simplistically. Life is much too complex, so it is the duty of journalists to unconvolute it, to soothe and pacify. In the Republic of Gannett, consumers must scan the newspaper -- irises frozen -- so they have enough time for more important, perky things, such as watching Regis or going online or buying one of those cute new VW Bugs or ordering McNuggets at the drive-through.

The Republic of Gannett's visionaries understand this, and they are bound to inconvenience -- or offend -- readers as seldom as possible. Two seconds is too long.

It pains the Flash to sound alarmist (or perhaps even cliché), but the management culture in the Republic of Gannett is, for want of a better term, Orwellian. At the Republic, news stories are already called "containers" and "packages." Certain newsroom staffers are known as "trainmasters." Others are "content coordinators."

Means justify ends. Process transcends product. Paradigms proliferate and then are supplanted by newer, cooler paradigms. Old paradigms are flushed away, their advocates exiled to the caboose.

Oh, sure, there will be special projects and definitive stories. As Page One of Sunday's Republic demands that we acknowledge, Phoenicians are skinny-dipping in droves. Stark nekkid! Well, those who have swimming pools are. Shockingly, the rest are going alfresco in bathtubs or showers or irrigation canals or the sink at the Chevron station.


Okay, so the local baseball team is called the Diamondbanks. Let's see, what would be a wacky, original and at least somewhat relevant mascot for a team named the "Diamondbanks"? By Jove, I've got it! A bobcat! Get it? Arizona? Diamondbanks? Bobcats?

All right, you whine, some of baseball's best mascots have absolutely nothing to do with the team name or the history or geography or fauna of the homeland. After all, there's no franchise in that apocalyptically crappy sports town west of here called the San Diego Chickens. A mascot just needs to be out-there and wacky, a sort of perpetual riff on absurdist physical comedy.

And you're right again, this bobcat is a cat that roams the BOB, a little bit of relevancy that, by the way, may make the bobcat the first animal to reach mascot status because its name includes the acronym of a corporate sponsor whose name shouldn't be soiling a municipal ballpark in the first place.

Ah, and there's our problem. Mascots used to be chosen because they were ferocious (tigers) or because they were, from the humanocentric bias, really goofy (chickens). In a sick bastardization of the mascot-picking process, Bank One's name glued onto "Ballpark" just happened to be identical to the world's most lamely American guy name which happens to be the first three letters in the name of a preciously cute recluse lynx found in all 50 states that feeds primarily on helpless little creatures such as rodents, rabbits and the occasional small lamb or unfenced chicken. Bobcats aren't fearsome, they aren't Arizona and they aren't funny. Bobcat mascots are cute and cliché. Such is our "Baxter." Blah.

Excuse the Flash for being literal, but what the Diamondbanks need for a mascot is an elephant-size mass of coils and rattles under a gigantic inflatable snake head with googly eyes that ejects Mace from its fangs onto the soft tissues of opposing pitchers. At the beginning of each game, the snake would ingest the mascot from the opposing team and, upon taking the mound at the seventh-inning stretch, eject the skeletal remains of the opposing mascot -- or Omar Daal -- from its hilariously huge anus.

The new mascot would reach a lovely symbiosis of goofiness and viciousness. And, keeping in line with modern sensibilities, if Bank One paid enough, it could still be named Bob the No-Load Mutual-Fund-Loving Snake.

Or, heck, since snakes are shaped like, well, you know, you could just call him the Big Unit.


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