In Our Midsts

OKLAHOMA CITY — Assorted thoughts. The professionals among the conferees and the speakers all were pessimistic about the future of the newspaper business. It was just a matter of degree. The most hopeful see journalism shifting mostly to the Internet with a minority paper presence. The dourest — and they actually were in a position to know and not just reflecting on Romenesko like I do — were sure the Internet would change or subvert or kill real reporting. One said he hoped to hit retirement age before that happens.

I was due at work at 5 p.m. so My Beloved and I took in a great brunch early. Fayetteville was four hours’ drive, either through Tulsa or past Sallisaw. MB suggested phoning the Oklahoma City Museum of Art Cafe. Somehow I got connected to a line cook. He wasn’t sure if reservations would be needed but when he described the special and his internal debate about whether the lobster omelet with Serrano peppers also would need salsa — well, he sold me there.

The museum also was downtown, with its building named for Don Reynolds, is handsome and apparently has a strong, diverse but modest collection. But being Sunday it opened at 1, and we would be on our way east. The omelet was fine (though our first and never-to-be-topped lobster omelet was served at the Maine Diner nine months ago), and the restaurant was sunny, busy, and not too big. When eating trafe, do it right.

The Bradford pears along the highways were in full bloom and redbuds just starting.

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We saw The Memorial at night and from a distance. It is stunning, a wise choice for the site of the bombing in every way. Abstract art serves us well these days especially in large pieces of public art. We get the symbolism. See, you can’t help but grow quiet and reflective there.

A good argument can be made that 9/11/01 did not change America as much as the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building did. That and the O.J. Simpson trial. Yes they should be in the same breath, both of them. They have created the country we now live in, developed how we view our republic, what we want the media to show us, and demonstrated to leaders how we allow them to treat us. What sort of gullible fools we have become.

This can be a long essay, written another day. Leave at this: 9/11 shocked us, was the now-cliched wake-up call, in how it was done and by whom, and the various ways we responded to it. But that the twin towers fell is not a surprise because of Oklahoma City, the first major terrorist act on U.S. soil, at least this side of, perhaps, Harper’s Ferry. Because of the April 19, 1995, courthouse bombing, among the thoughts of anyone watching the tube on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, was, “Oh no, not again.”

The Simpson trial, including all the preambles such as the televised freeway chase, showed how far cable news could take us — at no distance, no depth — and that we would follow. It also showed broadcasters that journalism didn’t have to work hard, we would take shallow and brief news bits over-and-over, instead of the in-depth work television can do, in some ways better than print. The Simpson case demonstrated that Americans prefer a good show to civil liberties. The government noticed.

I just Googled the O.J. case. Oh. My. His “not guilty” verdict was announced Oct. 3, 1995. What a season for television. -30-

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