So, I was sitting here, thinking. I know — probably a bad idea, but I persisted.
No, I was sitting here, thinking and wondering why we, the ink-stained wretches of the Fourth Estate, have let the term “mainstream media” become a pejorative. I know many among us, myself included, bristle when that phrase is used.
My first instinct is to object. “No, I’m not. I’m…I’m….”
I’m what exactly?
For fun, I Googled the definition of “mainstream.” The internet proclaims it to mean “the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional.” Well, that tracks. Normal. You get up, go to work, don’t kick puppies. Normal, acceptable behavior.
Sounds pretty boring, if you ask me. Not that I’m advocating for puppy kicking, but you get my drift. Mainstream things aren’t radical, exciting, coloring-outside-the-lines ventures.
Mainstream is boring and stodgy. Typical and expected. It’s your uncle who’s an accountant and gives you a pocket protector every Christmas. He likes mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread.
Mainstream is the death knell of creative thought and colorful murals. It’s homeowner associations that declare your house can be any shade of beige you want.
The more I think about it, mainstream might be the worst thing ever. So it stands to reason, when we’re called “mainstream media” we push back. No, we aren’t normal or conventional or boring, right? …right??
We do cool, exciting, edgy, avant garde stuff all the time. We go to city council meetings. And county commission meetings. School board meetings. Planning and zoning meetings. Wait….maybe the meetings aren’t a good example.
I mean, who really wants to know what their local government is doing? What taxes and laws they’re enacting? What that development next door to you is? Yeah, nothing exciting about that stuff.
Let’s see, what else do we do? Oh, there are always feature articles. Deep dives into the lives of octogenarians who climb mountains, prominent citizens battling rare forms of cancer, students who excel repeatedly in science and STEM. Yeesh, dulls-ville right?
Oh, I know – sports. Every week, dozens of contests on the gridiron, the hardwood, the diamond and the mats pit our young men and women against their peers in a battle of strategy, strength and wills. There’s the buzzer-beating, clock-stopping plays. The heart rending near-wins and the crushing blow outs, both given and received. Sounds like things you could nap through, right?
What else, what else? Well….there’s always crime. We’ve got everything from burglaries to murders. Drug deals and child abuse. Petty larceny and stolen cars. A front row seat to the destruction and agony of families and friends; a clear view of a community more and more suspicious of each other, distrusting and spiteful. I don’t know as I can say it’s dull but it certainly grinds a hole in your soul.
Maybe, as has been recommended, we should write more “happy” articles. Things that people consider a “good read.” Like our recent four-part series on the overwhelming number of apparently unwanted pets in the county. The series that included uplifting stories of successful adoptions and explored the very real price the men and women working and volunteering at the animal shelter pay for their good works.
There was a hatchet kept on a shelf in the euthanasia room, you guys. A hatchet and stacks of five-gallon buckets. A “good read” indeed.
Mainstream may conjure up the idea that something is stale and boring, outdated, outmoded and ready for retirement. There’s another concept that should come to mind when you think of things that are mainstream — tradition.
The form of media I work in — newspapers — has been around and evolving since the mid 1400s when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Remind me when the television became a thing?
The newspaper I work for — the Valencia County News-Bulletin — has been in existence, continuously publishing, since before New Mexico was a state.
This next year will be our 110th year. That’s a lot of spelling bees, wedding announcements, pictures of prize beef cattle, trials, obituaries and science fair winners.
We, as a small weekly paper in New Mexico, and we as the media writ large across this country, stand on tradition. We stand on a foundation laid by the authors of the Constitution, a bedrock ideal called out in the very first amendment.
So yes, we are “mainstream.” A free, unfettered, robust press should be the most normal, typical thing there is in this country.
(Julia M. Dendinger is the assistant editor of the Valencia County News-Bulletin. She covers the unincorporated county, Bosque Farms, The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus, crime and other aspects of Valencia County.)