CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - I'm Drowning to be Understood


By Jack Cawthon

An old country editor once offered me a job, and then followed it with advice. He wanted to hire me as editor of his country weekly newspaper, but I still had a year left before I could finish college, and I told him I felt I should stay the course. (Where have I heard this route mentioned recently?)

He gave me a long, hard look and advised me to go ahead and get my degree as it would look good in my obituary.

Well, I finished college, more through attendance rather than attention. Mark one achievement up as I approach the ultimate deadline, but what have I done lately to provide added filler material?

As one pays for obituary space in most newspapers today, and as most folks consider me rather cheap—I prefer frugal—the less said perhaps the better, although as with life insurance, the reward may lie in the eyes of the beholder.

I bring up this rather lifeless matter as I have held out hopes through the years of someday being honored by my peers, should I have any. The five years I spent in the Shadow of the Dome in Charleston, wherein lies our state's very own Arc of the Covenant, commonly referred to as The Payroll, were well spent as preparation for the coming years. However, immediately after this triumph I disappeared from sight for the next 20 years, hidden within the state's largest mental institution in Morgantown, undergoing therapy by "editing" publications dealing with chicken wastes and assorted topics which bore no personal credits at all. Looking back, I have few regrets for this omission.

To make up for the lost time, I continue to hack away as this writing, hoping against hope that someone will recognize the talent lying beneath. At least, I show persistence, continuing to write what even my devoted fans, numbered in the digits on the one hand, tell me they don't understand. I suppose, harking back to the original premise, to save money and cheat the Charleston Gazette out of dead space I could simply be called "unfathomable," but then lots of people who don't understand me to begin with will simply think I drowned.

Anything will suffice except to be identified with "the media." This designation covers mostly the polluted pond scum who today represent the visual as well as the visceral. In other words, TV with its reruns into one side of the head and out the other, generally missing the brain entirely. Here we have scores of talking heads who stick microphones and cameras into the faces of bereaved family members of the victims of the Sago mine disaster and ask how they felt when they learned that their loved ones were dead, then hold the shot to show the emotional grief.

Contrast this behavior to the dignified reporting of Ken Ward and Tara Tuckwiller for the Charleston Gazette. Most thinking people, and there seems to be fewer and fewer of them around nowadays, would rather read the in-depth story of how such a tragedy happened than to dwell on the close up tears as the camera lingers and lingers.

And doesn't it say something about reporting and the society we live in when a small army of police is needed to guard the relatives from these "media" folks? Even Ruby Hospital was raided and the cops were needed when the lone survivor was taken there. Then, his brother was rumored to have taken a picture of his comatose brother, which he then sold to a major tabloid newspaper. (Whoops! Sometimes print happens!)

An interviewer for one of the TV networks major news magazines referred in his interview of the billionaire investor who had bought the assets of Anker Mining, as a "vulture capitalist," a term that is often used on Wall Street for someone who buys up the remains of distressed companies.

Mr. Ross, the investor, staying cool and collected, said he didn't think "vulture" applied to him, as that presented a picture of someone picking the bones from a dead carcass, and he didn't believe that was correct as he had revived the company he headed.

However, wouldn't this term apply to the interviewer who was picking the bones of the dead in order to obtain a story? And the picking away still goes on as the "media" hovers over the scene of the dead.

No, I don't wish to have the designation of "media" stamped upon me as a final word. But looking ahead to look behind, maybe it should just be said I attended college, left some words somewhere, not too important, and ended up unfathomable. That shouldn't cost much for the few selected words, even in the Gazette, and let people assume that I went fully submerged in water. With the massive pollution in many of our state's streams, that should satisfy even my most ardent critics.

Hur Herald ©from Sunny Cal
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