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Flashes

It's a fast-paced world out there, and The Flash can no longer afford to sit back and snipe just once a week. Hence, "The Daily Flash: A Reader's Guide to the Arizona Republic" debuted May 6 on New Times' Web site, www.phoenixnewtimes.com

Yes, dear readers, you now may commune daily with your resident critic at large. And what larger, more deserving target than the Republic, that corpulent organ of the bourgeois, that myopic guardian of the status quo, that sports-crazed patron of corporate welfare (corporate socialism, actually), that convolution of editorial vicissitude, that lame yet disproportionally influential tower of journalistic mediocrity, the newspaper that vouched for the integrity of J. Fife Symington III, attacking the venality of his opponents?

Ponder some of the big issues and stories of the past decade, then recall how wrong the Republic got nearly every one of them:

The implosion of the Valley's real estate infrastructure (Forbes told that story); on nearly every Symington foible (New Times was far ahead. The late, lamented Gazette tried, printing a story before Symington's first election, noting that the self-proclaimed business genius was tens of millions of dollars upside down. Editors wouldn't let the reporters call Symington's debt debt. To them it was simply "loans." The Republic refused to follow the story.); Maricopa County's near bankruptcy (upon reading New Times' scoop, one Republic scribe phoned a county source to ask, "Is it really that bad?"); Bank One Ballpark (the Republic is an investor in the freakin' team, and vigorously opposed a public vote on the issue); Joke Arpaio (the Republic treated him with kid gloves until people started dying--and New Times started raking in awards for its coverage); the latest travesty is in full bloom as the Flash pens these lines--the Republic's idiotic, automatonic support of the Rio Salado Crossing project.

So, you might understand why it's important that a mind as nimble as the Flash's keep a close and constant eye on the Arizona Republic. If you'd been visiting the New Times site in the past couple of weeks, here are excerpts from what you'd have read:

Thoroughly Postmodern Silly
(May 7)
After weeks of debate over the reasons behind the Columbine High School massacre, the Republic has finally pronounced its verdict:

Art did it!
Yep, teenage murderers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were all hopped up on postmodernist art when they gunned down 13 people and then offed themselves on April 20.

Confused? So was today's editorial, which showered the Republic's art critic Richard Nilsen with praise for his "astonishingly insightful" series on postmodernist art, which explained how American culture began going down the tubes when Bruce Willis' character in Moonlighting started talking to the camera.

Actually, the Flash doesn't know whether Nilsen, a badger, actually said anything about Bruce Willis. This Pulsating Strobe didn't bother to wade through Nilsen's series, since debates about the merits of postmodernism stopped being interesting sometime during the Bush administration.

See, pointy-headed types at universities in the late 1980s were telling students that a detached sarcasm had become the dominant voice in culture--David Letterman's self-aware deadpan was the common example--and with it came a deterioration of the contract of verisimilitude between artist and consumer. That's a fancy way of saying Bruce Willis' character in Moonlighting knew he was a fictional character in a television series and he knew that you knew, and that's why he'd tell you what was coming after the commercial break.

Madonna, meanwhile, adopted and shed identities faster than she went through boyfriends, and scholars hailed her as the icon of a new age in culture: when style ruled over substance and art no longer looked for eternal truths. Then, some really anal scholars, in the typical fashion, went looking for the source of the postmodern Nile and decided architects in the mid-1970s had started the madness with buildings that mixed styles from different periods. Yawn.

So why is the Republic rehashing all of this now? Hey, Klebold and Harris' easy access to firearms couldn't have had anything to do with their body count--saying so would just be alarmist, after all.

No, the empty content of postmodern culture makes a lot easier target. What we all need is a good dose of old-time religion and a Norman Rockwell in every home--and stucco, much more stucco--the paper's editorial board seems to be suggesting.

Meanwhile, the newspaper that decries our "shallow" culture LED PAGE ONE on May 3 with a story about the mania over Star Wars toys.

This Just In: We ARE the News
(May 17)
Judging from Sunday's Valley & State section, the biggest news imaginable is being generated by the Republic itself.

First Richard De Uriarte, the Reader Advocate (a misnomer), launches into Jobesque lamentations of his difficult job. De Uriarte, you see, attended a NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF NEWSPAPER OMBUDSPEOPLE. Holy constructive dialogue, Batman, Richard has left the building! He writes:

"In one memorable session, we were asked to describe our toughest, most hostile readers. What characteristics do those readers have? we were asked.

"Nasty adjectives fired into the air: Snide, uninformed, narrow, unreasonable, loud, demeaning, demanding."

Suggestion to Richard: Perhaps readers would be more respectful if you stopped doing corporate PR and actually advocated for readers. In the years De Uriarte has been doing this column, the Flash cannot recall a single shred of pointed criticism he's leveled at the Republic. Instead, he prefers to dance around and explain away dubious reportorial and editorial decisions. There's plenty of fodder for constructive criticism, Richard. Stop making excuses.

Turning the page, The Flash was delighted to see more PR masquerading as news in the form of a breathtaking piece on the Republic's resident Luddite, Marianne Jennings. The piece, by Jim Fickess, plumbs the depths of the ASU prof's psyche while somehow failing to explore her self-righteousness or the intolerance and repressive hate she spews like Linda Blair in Kmart business attire. It's important that the citizenry is exposed to academic wing nuts like Jennings, and it's certainly no surprise that the Arizona Republic is the eager host. The Flash is surprised, however, to see the Republic writing syrupy profiles of its own jingoistic columnists. Fickess' piece even quotes an editor as saying that most reader feedback on Jennings is "positive" (a claim the Flash doubts). Jennings cites Jurassic Park dialogue in an ethics parable, then goes on to say, "Readers probably don't believe this, but I don't bring politics into the classroom."

You're right, Marianne, readers don't believe it.
She gushes about her disabled daughter: "What she's taught me is the quality of true love. When you love someone, you only see their soul and spirit. You don't see the physical."

Although professing to be a Christian, Jennings has yet to apply this "quality of true love" to AIDS sufferers, single moms or others she views as subspecies.

Finally, there's Keven Willey's column, which whines that the Republic told the whole story of Rio Salado Crossing (not), yet some readers are angry over the newspaper's fawning endorsement of the multibillion-dollar white elephant in waiting. The Flash will note here that the Republic's exhaustive coverage of Rio Salado Crossing failed to grasp the amount of tax dollars that flow to the project, that the City of Mesa has yet to sign a memorandum of understanding with the stadium district or the Arizona Cardinals, or that--get this--Mesans will actually pay the Cardinals to play in the stadium, until New Times did it first.

And hey, Kev, what makes you think readers care about how you arrive at your misguided editorial stances? Write about something but the universe that exists between your ears--for a change.

Feed the Flash: voice, 602-229-8486; fax, 602-340-8806; online, [email protected]

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