Sunday, June 22, 2008

Elvis on the chairlift

I ran into Elvis on the ski slopes the other day. He rode the triple up with some foul-mouthed woman from New Zealand.
"I admire your work," I said. "Especially the movie where you had to wear the diving suit with the bolt-on helmet" I couldn't remember the name of it.
The foul-mouthed woman from New Zealand thought I was talking to her and said "Thanks and (expletive deleted)."
I tried again. "You're from Memphis aren't you? My mother is from Tennessee. Ever hear of Fork Ridge?"
He nodded and asked what I do for a living.
"Newspapers," I said. Both he and the woman from New Zealand scooted as far away on the chair seat as they could. "Newspaper advertising," I added quickly and they both moved back.
He asked how that was and if the industry had changed much since he has been out of circulation.
"I think it has changed a lot in the last few years," I said nervously as I stared down at at his blue suede ski boots. "Everything has gotten shorter."
He asked me to explain.
"The stories, the deadlines, reader's attention span, everything seems to be getting shorter," I postulated. "Tempers, they are shorter too."
He pressed for more.
"Well, take the USA Today. Just about every person in the newspaper game complains about their lack of depth. The readers complain too but they have made it one of the nation's most-read newspapers. Most of the other papers have copied some of its tactics, many times without even realizing it."
He asked if I worked for USA Today.
"No, I work for a small newspaper. Community journalism, you know, the stuff you have tacked up all over your refrigerator with little magnets. That kind of stuff, with a hard news cover," I said. "I like it very much."
He wanted to know what I was trying to say.
"I don't know. Just that everything is shorter nowadays."
Both he and the foul-mouth woman from New Zealand looked at me, then looked at each other, then back at me.
"Even the ad salesmen," they said in unison.
"Don't be cruel," I said.

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