Angry Letter: Don’t mock newspapers!

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I got this email a few weeks ago from a Film.com reader. It will be relevant for you to know that my author bio at Film.com says this: “Eric has been a film critic since 1999, and a beard wearer since 2008. He holds a degree in journalism and used to work in ‘the newspaper industry,’ back when that was a thing.”

Hi Eric,

May I call you Eric? Ok, how about Mr. Snider? Mr. Mencken? Mr. Pulitzer?

I ask because it appears that you consider yourself a “journalist.” It appears that you seem to feel that writing movie reviews for a Web site puts you above those who write for newspapers — or, at least, when newspapers were actually “a thing.”

I mention this because, as a fairly recently retired sportswriter for a decent-sized paper in Massachusetts, I am fascinated by the cultural change I must face; a change marked by the total reliance on the electronic media by  teenagers.

And we all know that, as Al Capp said, “the only thing a teenager is better at than me is fixing cars and acne.”

I’m sure that Capp won’t mind your stealing his line and using it as your own, mostly because he quite dead. You may Google Al to find out who he is.

At any rate, after spending 40 years pounding keyboards — many that were part of … GASP … a typewriter — I am reasonably upset by your dismissal of words on actual paper. [Yeah, I don’t think “reasonably” is the word you’re looking for.]

Exactly what are you giving the world of journalism, other than your arrogant use of the word “journalist” to describe yourself?  Well, you are helping to prove that a world of limitless electronic “paper” anyone and everyone can find a publisher. You are giving us the letter “u” as a pronoun, and countless other bastardizations of what used to be a beautiful language — the language of Shakespere [sic], Keats, Shelley, Lardner, and, even in their own way, Woodward and Bernstein.

What used to be essays — some thought-provoking from people like Barnicle; some fantastically funny, from people like Buchwald and Woody Allen — have become “tweets, simple, rarely pithy, often moronic and mostly just another way from Sally to tell the rest of the teenage world that, in the last half-hour, she’s applied “vagina pink” to her fingernails, broken up with Jimmy, and taken an absolutely wonderful crap.

Yes, Eric, you are a 2011 journalist. Aren’t you proud?

M.B.
Agawam, Mass.

 [His email has this signature line at the end of it:]

A sense of humor is what takes a problem and whittles it down to a size where you can handle it. — Billy Clyde Puckett, Semi-Tough

My response:

I think there’s been some misunderstanding. I’m not a teenager; I’m 37 years old. I’ve only been an “online writer” since 2003. Before that, I wrote for newspapers for 18 years, starting when I was 10 and did a news column about my elementary school for the community paper. I earned a B.A. in journalism (print journalism) in 1999. Like you, I love the English language (particularly the word “pontoon”), and I haven’t done anything to bastardize it — nor can I imagine where in my writing you’ve found any indication that I have.

As far as I can tell from your email, your objection is not to anything in particular I’ve written but to the wording of my bio paragraph at Film.com. When I made light of the declining state of the newspaper industry, it was from the perspective of someone who loves newspapers and was part of that world for most of his life, not that of some 20-year-old brat snarking about his forefathers’ ancient means of communication. I’m sorry if your feelings on the subject are too sensitive to allow for jest, but as a wise man once said, a sense of humor is what takes a problem and whittles it down to a size where you can handle it.

In short, your assumptions about me are entirely incorrect. For a journalist, you sure jump to a lot of conclusions!

Best wishes,
Eric D. Snider

I didn’t get a reply.

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