Last year, when the Tribune dedicated one day's paper to the clichéd question, "Why don't you publish more good news?" Trib reporters tore their hair out and some were so embarrassed that they quit. The paper was mocked coast to coast. But that wasn't enough to keep the paper from doing it again this year.
"Not everybody liked last year's Good News Tribune, wrote Trib editor Jim Ripley in a front-page apology on July 27, another day that will live in news infamy. Just give us the news, the critics said.
"To those with that concern, you have my commitment that we have not left important news out of the paper. It's here. It may not be as prominently displayed as on other days or heralded with as big a headline. But it's here.
"The truth of the matter is that every day we try to assemble a newspaper with a mix of good news to balance the bad."
Jimbo, good buddy, do you really think that people would rather read the astounding front-page revelation that retired people have more time for volunteer work than the page-six "bad news" that the authorities had caught the bastard murdering people in Yosemite?
Here's a tip, Jimbo: Good news or bad, it should also be interesting.
Frankly, aside from a few "accentuate the positive" headlines, we can't see much difference between this tripe and the usual Bad News Tribune.
Phoenix Rising (Not)
Phoenix Magazine's cover story this month was old news as soon as it was published.
The issue featuring "Ranking the Schools: A look at which public institutions are making the grade" was mailed to subscribers the same week that the state released the results of the Stanford 9 achievement tests. The 1999 test results.
Immediately outdated were the 1998 tests upon which Phoenix Magazine based its report and charts revealing the "top" elementary, middle and high schools in the Valley.
And the magazine deserves an additional major demerit for blurring the lines between advertising and journalism.
The two kids happily walking near Rancho Solano Private School in the cover photograph can also be found inside the magazine (on page 83) in a photo that offers a clearer view of the school. But this time, they are appearing in a half-page ad for Rancho Solano.
The same school, by the way, appears in the report at the top of a list of the largest private schools in the Valley.
Freeway of Hate
The Flash was en route to an otherwise delightful weekend of camping in the mountains when the mo-rons at the Arizona Department of Transportation did their best to try to ruin it.
ADOT shut down all the eastbound lanes of U.S. 60 at Country Club Drive on Saturday for -- get this -- restriping.
The painting of new stripes.
The whole freakin' freeway!
The resulting traffic jam was many miles -- and hours -- long. The Flash's camping party endured its every indignity.
The (brand-new) vehicle the Flash was driving began to overheat. To prevent overheating, the Flash turned off the AC, thereby unfortunately subjecting some small children to the midday temperatures and the noxious freeway environment.
Like hapless insects caught in ADOT's web, dispirited people pushed their overheated and disabled vehicles to the shoulder, provided they could get to a shoulder.
Some motorists were so incensed by the freeway fiasco they engaged in civil disobedience. They began driving over the pink crushed rock landscaping and escaping, in puffs of dust, to a frontage road. Just as the Flash inched up to this underground railway to freedom, a Highway Patrolman materialized and blocked the unauthoritized exit.
"YOU SHALL KNOW THE FULL HORROR OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA's DIABOLICAL GENIUS," the officer belched sulfurously as the Flash crept past.
The Flash finally was forced off the freeway at Country Club Drive -- after about 90 minutes of hyperthermia -- and saw, of course, virtually no evidence that any work was being done on the closed portion of the highway.
They could at least have posted a few guys in hardhats, leaning on shovels.
The Flash quickly realized that the mo-rons from ADOT had not informed its captives, er, constituents, where the eastbound freeway opened up again. So the flock of blind-sheep motorists moved with glacial speed on Baseline or Southern, periodically turning and crawling toward the freeway to see if the entry ramps were open. The Flash crossed over at one point and, again, saw no evidence that any work was being done on the five empty freeway lanes.
It turned out that the freeway reopened at Stapley. The Flash got back on far to the east of that ramp, at Val Vista, and finally made tracks for a remote campsite, where the traffic jam brought to you by ADOT was forgotten -- until the trip back home.
"Corporation Commission Unsound."
So blared the banner headline on the editorial page of the July 27 Arizona Republic.
The indignant editorial bemoaned the multipronged criminal investigation into alleged influence peddling by commissioner Jim Irvin. It bemoaned the infighting between Irvin and fellow GOP commissioner Carl Kunasek. It bemoaned the illegal election of former commissioner Tony West, who was booted from the commission in May after it was determined that he held a securities license at the time he was elected -- a statutory no-no.
"In recent months, the three-member panel has sunk to a new level of dysfunction amid allegations of criminal wrongdoing," the editorial gravely intoned. "The problems, which seem endless and increasingly costly to ratepayers and utilities, point to the need for major reform of the commission."
The Republic suggested that the Legislature and the public "take a hard look at the commission, its makeup and how it is assembled. The solution may be to increase the number of elected commissioners to five to reduce their individual power, or grant the governor the authority to appoint members who are more qualified."
Or, voters could simply stop electing the Arizona Republic's candidates.
Irvin, Kunasek and West all enjoyed the editorial endorsements of the Arizona Republic. The "unsound"ness and "turmoil" are products of the types of bozos the Arizona Republic routinely endorses.
"Mr. Irvin, a successful businessman with a graduate degree in business administration, unbeholden to any special interests, promises new vigor, and new vision at the commission regarding rates, service and safety," the Republic trumpeted in 1996 while denigrating Irvin's opponent, Barbara Sherman.
"This is precisely what the commission needs: Jim Irvin."
As it turns out, Irvin might be beholden to special interests after all -- criminal investigators are checking his role in the sale of a utility company.
The Republic was equally enthusiastic about another of the "unsound" commissioners, writing in 1994:
"We believe that change and competition can be invigorating to any organization and thus recommend Republican Carl Kunasek over Democrat Debbie McCune-Davis ...
"... the decision was not a difficult one. Kunasek promises to offer new ideas and challenge existing ones. McCune-Davis offers more of the same. It's as simple as that."
The Flash should note here that in the 10 years the Republicans controlled the commission, from 1975 to 1984, the charge per kilowatt hour that Arizonans pay for electricity rose from 4 cents to 10 cents. In the 10 years the Democrats controlled the commission, from 1985 to 1994, the charge rose a quarter of a cent.
The Republic also endorsed Tony West, one of the sleaziest politicians in Arizona history. The Republic even noted West's ethical lapses in choosing him over a comparatively squeaky clean candidate, Paul Newman, last year.
"If West is to take the lead in providing (Corporation Commission) leadership, he also must adhere to the highest ethical standards," the Republic warned.
"He has strayed in the past. In 1994, we criticized West for taking advantage of a loophole (now closed) while still serving as state treasurer to begin collecting his state retirement pension. And some of West's outside business interests also have raised eyebrows over conflict-of-interest concerns."
As it turned out, the courts ruled that West's "outside business interests" were in such conflict that he wasn't even eligible to be on the freakin' ballot.
It's true that reforms are necessary. Arizona voters must vow to do the opposite of what the Arizona Republic's editorial page tells them to do.
With Tuesday's editorial, lambasting the very slimeballs (all Republicans) that the Republic insisted we support, Arizona's largest newspaper proves it is run by a very special breed of two-faced buffoon.
The Flash will henceforth refer to them as ediots.
(The preceding item originally appeared in "The Daily Flash: A Reader's Guide to the Arizona Republic," which can be found every day at www.phoenixnewtimes.com)
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