Get the Ruler

How do you know when you’re the “best”? There’s always some kind of measurement device, against which one places oneself or their performance to judge.

Judgment in and of itself is today, of course, a harsh, hurtful, mean-spirited action. Still, we know it to exist as evidenced by the previous sentence and those who utter it. An aside: a student once handed me her term paper and admonished: “Don’t judge.” Really.

Claiming status for the “best” or the “biggest” means that all others are smaller and lesser. And who wants to be known as small or less? Unless (oops) one is playing golf. Then less really is more; in virtually all other contexts, though, less is in fact less.

Maybe chess is another exception. Checkmate in the fewest number of moves. Anything else?

The Thanksgiving Day daily newspaper arrived, thankfully, Thursday morning. On the front page, above the fold, in a colored oval and just below the banner, was the uppercase proclamation: “OUR BIGGEST PAPER OF THE YEAR”. All caps. Just in case readers missed the point or are visually challenged. And by “biggest,” they did not mean the paper’s dimensions.

But, as we all know, “biggest” doesn’t mean “best.” Someone does, in fact, have the biggest waist; it seems unlikely they would also claim possessing the “best” waist. No? See any edition of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. (And, by the way, just what is the secret? There don’t seem to be many.)

The local newspaper’s grand claim, doubtless true, no argument here — of being the BIGGEST is a dubious achievement and not-so-meritorious.

If nothing else, the claim has no relationship to anything even mildly or distantly associated with journalism. And everything associated with consumerism. For, as readers know well, the T’giving edition is packed thicker and higher with advertising. Flyers and “inserts” (the news is, in fact, what’s being inserted into the larger-bigger-body of the paper) alerting shoppers where to find the biggest TVs at the smallest prices.

One local scientist weighed the day’s edition. Four pounds of advertising and eight ounces of news. This finding was published in the widely regarded, peer reviewed journal known as Facebook.

And so we have it. The newspaper’s brag is that content they produce, are responsible for, and professionally most around of, pales in significance, weight and size to content created and produced elsewhere by others and for which the newspaper may have printed and assembled for subscribers and “news” stand customers.

What, oh what, has happened to irony?

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