Bad journalism and the failure to communicate

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Boris13c
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Since this has come up in several threads, I figured it might be nice to have a thread of its own.

I took journalism in HS and College, and wrote articles for various school related publications, and it saddens me how modern day journalism has turned into a multi-colored turd. Not sure when it really started, but it wasn't an overnight thing. It festered for a while.

Not going to go into the subject matters as that would quickly morph into some political thing that I hope to avoid. I am speaking in generalities regarding how little actual information is relayed and how poorly presented what few facts being disseminated are. I want this to be a thread where we can vent about that.

I first noticed a major decline in sports reporting years ago. ESPN for instance was once hailed as a premium source for sports information and highlights. It is now a cesspool where morons simply scream at each other, with an emphasis on talking head shows while minimizing real sports. But it isn't just ESPN.

Then the terrible reporting bled over from the sports world to the regular news, making much of it now unwatchable and not dispensing much in the way of real information. It is sometimes truly difficult to find actual information regarding an event. Seems everyone is on a quest to turn everything into an editorial to the point where I don't think the current crop of talking heads understands the difference between an editorial and an actual report.

Many blame the internet, where the quest for clicks means simply make shit up and clear it up later. Maybe. But I think it is deeper than that and points to a decline in both quality of education and responsibility for ones own actions. A base level decline in both intellect and effort. Why bother to do the work to find the real issues when you can simply send out whatever comes out of your ass and still get a paycheck? Very disappointing on so many levels.

So, fire away. Discuss.

And please refrain from turning this into a political bitch and moan. I would like this to be a nice off season discussion we can all chew on for a while.

Thanks.
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If this gets overtly political, it's done, so obviously participants should tread lightly.

I talked about this on a podcast a few weeks ago in regards to TwitterX and how by destroying any authentic ties to source credibility, the possibility for spreading horse shit to a reader base that is already deeply untrained to verify and validate is now a feature, not a bug.

The bar now is non-existent. Being a journalist is a thankless, forgotten, and dying art; there's very little in the way of money or fame or status that can be achieved with such a career anymore. In the sports world in particular, there are maybe 4-8 reporters across the big four leagues that break news and are considered by the masses to be gospel. Below them are a network of maybe 100 reporters that cover the beats of their respective cities and/or teams, and are similarly very high in integrity and do their job with extreme care.

But below that? There's about 8 million dumbass accounts of podcasters, bloggers, nobodies, nothings, and losers who dress their accounts up with checkmarks and professional-looking photos, use bots to get thousands of followers and fake interactions, and claim to have some insider information or the hot dope on whatever team or league they suckle at the teat of. They don't know shit. These buffoons simply follow the actual journalists, plagiarize, and slap their branding on it afterward. SportsMockery does this all the time. They offer virtually nothing, and the kind of stuff they did manage to "report" on that got them some sway was an unfounded rumor of Patrick Sharp nailing Duncan Keith's wife. It's less than tabloid.

The race for first is all that matters to these clowns, and they will do ANYTHING to be first. They want to be the ones to break the story, because they know if they get that ONE legit story out that they can prove started with them, they're IN! Aaron Leming for example. Guy isn't a bad person or an awful sports twitter personality. He doesn't offer anything of substance or unique insight, but one time a few years ago, he broke the John Fox to the Bears report before anyone else, and suddenly he's Chicago Sports Twitter Royalty. At least he was. He hasn't had anything really since.

This kind of thing happens all the time, and it's only getting worse. I bailed on TwitterX after Elon Musk did away with account verification (it's still there technically, but in a way that requires a few extra steps to verify instead of having, ya know, a blue checkmark mean anything beyond "I paid for this"). I still check it for Bears news but it's a delicate dance. People are reckless.
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Bad journalism, non-existent journalism. I am coming from a different perspective. The little burg I live in used to have a really good newspaper. Lots of local news, happenings in the are, covered local sports quite well. Little by little people started getting laid off. The "lucky" ones to still hold on were asked to do more for the same pay. More emphasis started to get put on the online version. The paper sold at least 2x in about a 10 year or less span. The current owners have basically shit on our town's paper. They shut down the press here, closed the office and had all calls forwarded to Peoria. A skeleton crew was kept on. Today our town's paper does not even have our town's news in it. Our town's paper is full of Peoria and Springfield news. I believe the company who owns it is Gannett. The paper is horrible and I can say I have not read it in about 2 yrs. The online version is just as bad. It is sad that small town newspapers cannot stay afloat. I put the majority of the blame on the internet. Fast news, current news, 24-7.

I also do not watch much, if any, news on TV, not even local. It is just too depressing. It is all doom and gloom news. There are positive things happening in the world, but no, or hardly anyone, wants to talk about that.

It has been kind of liberating to not watch or read as much news as I used. I have a better attitude about things, most of the time.
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The news as we used to know it no longer exists. It's now just editorialized infotainment. The shift from physical media to digital media exacerbated the change. Any dope with a social media account can be a "reporter" now.

Letting journalists interject their personal opinions and beliefs into the reporting has done nothing but create bias and influence consumers of media to lean towards whatever position they align with instead of using the facts as presented to inform their point of view. It's resulted in us being lazy in our decision making. Monetizing outrage and click farming has replaced the need to inform.
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There's lots of things that has crushed organized information.
(Not all, but most of it ties back to technology - cable news channels and the Internet.)

1) Need to be first
The speed at which news can be widely disseminated is just insane now. 50 years ago, a daily newspaper might print a special evening edition if something earthshaking happened during the day. Then there were 24 hr news channels. Then websites. Then social media. Along the way, accuracy, details, fact-checking, and background & context got trampled by the need to be fast, if not first.

2) Need to be heard
With an avalanche of information options, how do you possibly get people to pay attention to you? By being steady, reliable, and accurate? Good luck. By being first? Maybe. By being loud, obnoxious, edgy, opinionated, controversial, extreme? Cha-ching.

3) Lack of credentials
In the olden days of legit news orgs, to get anything voiced, it had to get through people with journalism and broadcast degrees and experience and reputations to care about. Today's radio show hosts, Internet bloggers, and TV pundits don't have that. Hell, even a HS dropout with $25/month for a phone can be a loud, meaningful voice in the national discourse.

4) Lack of consequence
Valuing freedom of speech is nice. But freedom of speech doesn't and has never, at any point in America's history, meant freedom to harm others and/or enrich yourself with slander, fraud, and lies. There's always been laws against that. But they aren't vigorously and effectively enforced. Take Alex Jones for example. Repeatedly told absolutely wild and outrageous lies about Sandy Hook and has a repetitive history of similar behavior. It took 7 years for him to lose in court and 10 years after he started, he's still walking around free, still rich, still a strong media presence, and still hasn't paid a penny of damages. If such an obvious, massive fraudster still hasn't been silenced, what happens to the multitude of smaller scale liars and con men? Generally, nothing.

5) Economics
Rich people and organizations buy up the less rich ones. And the richest ones, shockingly, frequently represent the interests of the rich and of their specific owners.
Small, local news orgs can't operate efficiently at scale. So "local news" steadily dies off, replaced by the voice of a faraway rich org with no local ties. Or nothing at all.
As mentioned in (1), doing things right is too expensive and not rewarded/valued by consumers, so reporting grows shoddier and shoddier.

6) Niche news
With a million options for where to get their news and human nature being what it is, it's no surprise that people choose 'news' that's what they wanted to hear all along. Who's going to choose to listen to something that challenges their prejudices and lazy thinking and provides inconvenient truths when you can listen to someone tell you how smart you are and how all the problems are caused by the stupid, evil people that think differently?

7) Censored
The last one (I can think of right now) is a long-time, slowly growing trend. But it's impossible to discuss without being highly political in nature, so I'll let this one pass. Things can get mean enough over who to blame on offense without a specific sociopolitical finger-pointing.
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Oh yeah, and
8) Shortened attention spans
Even if someone miraculously does provide in-depth, detailed, backgrounded and contextual reporting...who's got time for that? That's like a book or something.
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Moriarty wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2024 12:05 pm Oh yeah, and
8) Shortened attention spans
Even if someone miraculously does provide in-depth, detailed, backgrounded and contextual reporting...who's got time for that? That's like a book or something.
I sort of blame the Amazon instant gratification epidemic on this. Right here, right now, make me have to do as little work or critical thinking so I can move on with my life mindset.
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I am commenting on Sports Journalism and Sports Journalism ONLY....

It seems like there's no hurdle to being a sports journalist.

If I wanted to I could start my own YouTube channel and rant and rave for 2 hours with various mock drafts, trades, and tirades.

The existence of YouTube, and social media, has been the most toxic thing I can ever remember. Any Buffalo Wild Wings dwelling Dude Bro can publish an opinion or story about sports.

Then it's the constant screaming and everybody is offended by everything.

I hate it so I don't digest that type of media. There's one YouTube channel I'll watch from time to time, but lately even that has gotten nauseating.

There needs to be a professional license to be a journalist where people have to have standards in truthful reporting and to be held accountable for their opinions.
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For the older dudes, we remember how nothing was presented in the media unless it had been verified by at least 2 and sometimes 3 reputable sources. Read or watch "All The President's Men" to see this in action in the Watergate affair. No mas.
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I used to stay on top of what is happening by visiting the /r/news subreddit on Reddit but after they killed most of the 3rd party apps for browsing their site I went for a period of time really not knowing anything about what was going on the in the world. Honestly, I didn't miss it at all since it didn't impact my day-to-day life but I eventually found it disconcerting to hear from someone else about some big news event that happened weeks earlier and I had no clue.

I still am not plugged in as much but now I try at least once a week during the 20 minutes I take for lunch to open up The Athletic, ready any Bears news, and then go to AP News and scan the headlines just to stay moderately informed of what's going on.
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Grizzled wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2024 6:33 pm For the older dudes, we remember how nothing was presented in the media unless it had been verified by at least 2 and sometimes 3 reputable sources. Read or watch "All The President's Men" to see this in action in the Watergate affair. No mas.
Exactly.

Now we're inundated with daily articles about various INSIDERS or EXECS claiming that some event is going to happen. The funny thing is that if you give it a week, you'll find stories citing INSIDERS or EXECS that contradict the story from a week ago.

It's so toxic and disgusting and the credibility is long gone.

When I was a kid there was a show called The Sports Reporters and Dick Schaap was the host.

He'd have on various sports reporters like Mike Lupica, Bill Conlin and a few others.

That was such a nice show. There would be debates and things like that, but it was civil, intelligent and well informed.
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The Marshall Plan wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 4:59 am
Grizzled wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2024 6:33 pm For the older dudes, we remember how nothing was presented in the media unless it had been verified by at least 2 and sometimes 3 reputable sources. Read or watch "All The President's Men" to see this in action in the Watergate affair. No mas.
Exactly.

Now we're inundated with daily articles about various INSIDERS or EXECS claiming that some event is going to happen. The funny thing is that if you give it a week, you'll find stories citing INSIDERS or EXECS that contradict the story from a week ago.

It's so toxic and disgusting and the credibility is long gone.

When I was a kid there was a show called The Sports Reporters and Dick Schaap was the host.

He'd have on various sports reporters like Mike Lupica, Bill Conlin and a few others.

That was such a nice show. There would be debates and things like that, but it was civil, intelligent and well informed.
Yeah. now we're innundated by the likes of Pat McAffee, et. al., guys who do no actual reporting, just maybe talk to a security guard or a cafeteria worker at a team's headquarters and consider that "insider information.
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Grizzled wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 12:24 pm
The Marshall Plan wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 4:59 am

Exactly.

Now we're inundated with daily articles about various INSIDERS or EXECS claiming that some event is going to happen. The funny thing is that if you give it a week, you'll find stories citing INSIDERS or EXECS that contradict the story from a week ago.

It's so toxic and disgusting and the credibility is long gone.

When I was a kid there was a show called The Sports Reporters and Dick Schaap was the host.

He'd have on various sports reporters like Mike Lupica, Bill Conlin and a few others.

That was such a nice show. There would be debates and things like that, but it was civil, intelligent and well informed.
I too remember the good old days of my youth and watching quality sports broadcasting ... to see it go from that to what we see today is kind of depressing

Grizzled wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 12:24 pmYeah. now we're innundated by the likes of Pat McAffee, et. al., guys who do no actual reporting, just maybe talk to a security guard or a cafeteria worker at a team's headquarters and consider that "insider information.
well, to McAfee's credit, he says right up front his reporting is his take on reports others have made public ... and he considers himself an entertainer rather than a reporter
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McAfee is also pretty connected to guys like Schefty and Rap. He’s a lughead, but he does know some people.
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There many current faults with journalism.
Many of them listed above.

1 that I haven't seen listed, is the replication of the same story buy multiple outlets with no fact checking of the original story. The easiest example I can think of is the fake celebrity death articles. More prevalent a few years ago. One person can essentially start a bullshit story and its told around the world before the truth is learned.

I'm sure we have all had that. Someone tells you news and you immediately think "that doesn't sound right". To only spend time looking for the truth.

The social media, podcasting journalism is a complete double edge sword. Yes people are actually more informed in mass, and getting alternative takes, on a wider range of topics. Thats technically good. The outcome hasnt always been though. It's a wierd dichotomy.

I stopped even listening to sports reporting. That's a failed empire.
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These days, a lot of what we're calling journalism seems like a short-term consumable for which there are a zillion brands all purporting to be the real shit.
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Ante: My wife was a journalist for decades, and I've dabbled, too.

Lots of great points here, and I might not be adding anything but my perspective, but what the heck.

There's a great need for good journalism, but no market for it. Anyone who worked for Vice until recently can tell you that. A godawful situation, but it's got some deep roots. Real journalists have been squeezed out of the game by two complementary forces: in rough terms, ownership and readership.

Newspapers have a fascinating history in this country, but at some point before the Gilded Age got going, a resilient model emerged. Papers and other periodicals that weren't entirely supported by subscriptions of various kinds (those whose organizations were big enough that they needed to sell ad space) became financially insignificant on their own merits for most publishers. A few even became loss leaders. William Randolph Hearst might have created a paper empire, but it was usually heavily leveraged, relied on two or three assets to keep the others afloat, and was possible only because Hearst inherited a newspaper and a mining fortune...and got regular help from his mom.

To a newspaper-owning family in the mid-century forward, the paper got you status and maybe a steady but relatively modest income. You used the two--favor with politicians and other business entities combined with some ready cash and an easily leveraged tentpole asset--to branch out. That was the deal. That's why some families in the rural Midwest still send their kids to boarding school in Switzerland and raise polo ponies on the side.

That's all changed. The old families have cashed out (the bit about the rural Midwest is from real life, and the family I have in mind bled the company dry before moving to an employee-ownership model and sticking the proles with a bunch of debt). Newspaper owners and their "media" descendants now tend to consider their assets to be black boxes valued by their ability to generate profit. The New York Times gave into this way of thinking a looong time ago.

At the same time, readership (and viewership, I guess) has gotten less patient, less discerning, and less engaged. Many powers more stupid, let's say, though it was what, 130 years ago or so that Hearst duped an entire country into scrapping the first draft of the American Experiment and entering the Spanish-American War. Stupid's always been with us.

But it's a different kind of stupid these days: a stupid that mistakes the echoes of its own uninformed voice for trustworthy information, and that constantly reinforces its dismal prerogative to discard or mock whatever fails to comport with its narrow view of things. In the process, Big Stupid has created entire new modes of communication and called some of them news. What's happening out there? Well, I saw a link to a thing on Best Excellent News and Money Power that said.... And I heard a thing on So, Like, the News (GOAT NPR show!) that said....

When everything's journalism, nothing's journalism.

We may have already declined past the point at which even a significant minority of voting-age Americans has both the education and the self-respect needed to receive information and assess it honestly against their own knowledge, preferences, and instincts. And that is the minimum requirement for deriving benefits from good journalism.

There's still a ton of good journalism out there, and scads of good journalists keeping it together somehow. But ownership has lost its interest in getting the best work possible into the hands of an eager public. That public no longer exists except in fragmented pockets, and precious few publications have the will to address it. Instead, they're chasing bigger returns and more ad revenue, which makes them more interested in getting a rise out of people than in acting as professional investigators and explicators of what's going on. This tends to be communicated pretty explicitly to editors, who communicate it more insinuatingly to journalists themselves. The upshot: if you want a raise after your quasi-intern stint straight out of school...well, you know the rest. Arm-twisting is rarely necessary.

For what it's worth, I still subscribe to the local paper. But the only two publications I really like and trust are the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. Each depends largely on its endowment fund and to a lesser extent on direct subscriptions. Used to read the Financial Times and the Economist religiously...but that was when I worked for their parent company. Which sold them after it ditched its CEO's succession plan. She was a career journalist and such a successful executive that she may be the only native of Texarkana to be named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Her successor was a PR hack who sold the company for parts. Another moral victory for actual journalists, I guess.

Anyhoo, my two cents' worth.

EDIT: Shored up some phrasing in the tenth paragraph.
Last edited by karhu on Fri Feb 23, 2024 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Quick follow-up after some reflection and a chat with an old colleague.

Advertising-supported journalism websites are dead or doomed. All of them. They're also inherently suspicious. The measures and indicators actually used by larger news sites to define and assert their value to advertisers are shallow at best and complete bunkum at worst. There's no connection between clicks, views, "customer engagement," and revenue. It's largely made up.

This has some pretty serious consequences. For starters, marketing teams understand that it's all bullshit, even beyond the bullshit typical of marketing teams (my old colleague was in marketing until a month ago, and I'm paraphrasing him here). They have a more pointed and desperate incentive than most professionals to put old wine in new bottles, or more often cheap hooch and antifreeze. Always have--it's always been difficult to prove a marketing effort's effectiveness--but things are so wildly divorced from reality these days at larger news/information sites that the entire galaxy of online business operations dealing with marketing and advertising can amount to keeping the rest of the C-suite nervous enough that they'll continue to overfund their marketing departments and the people who run them.

But what if, as inevitably happens, a site isn't making enough money to justify its lavish marketing budget? The marketing team will tell you that it's doing a bang-up job, and it'll damned sure have the stats to prove it. Too few CEOs have the nerve or know-how to lay the game bare, so they turn to the other side of the equation:

It must be the content that's underperforming.

And what happens to the content in that case, the work done by journalists who must be solid and principled because no one would ever think of doing their jobs for the crumbs they're paid? It gets superficial, repetitive, derivative. It documents and celebrates trends rather than reflecting on them. Some of it doesn't even get through to an audience. A lot of it gets torn to shreds in editing and reconfigured in more marketable form.

That's why you've been let down by large media corporations and the VC firms that run so many news outlets (Gannett Newspapers? Owned by an Emirati investment group).

The really good stuff is still being pushed through by journalists across the country working for newspapers and other periodicals. Online, it's increasingly being written by independent journalists on smaller websites. That's a return to the pre-Hearst days when someone like Ambrose Bierce could grab a gallon of whiskey and a loaded revolver, sit down at a typewriter, and knock out an issue every few days of a local paper. We've been there before, and some good things came of it. We haven't been there before with the bloated and dangerously septic carcass of a broader industry crashing down among the scattered purveyors of real journalism. Interesting times.
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karhu wrote: Fri Feb 23, 2024 11:44 pm Quick follow-up after some reflection and a chat with an old colleague.

Advertising-supported journalism websites are dead or doomed. All of them. They're also inherently suspicious. The measures and indicators actually used by larger news sites to define and assert their value to advertisers are shallow at best and complete bunkum at worst. There's no connection between clicks, views, "customer engagement," and revenue. It's largely made up.

This has some pretty serious consequences. For starters, marketing teams understand that it's all bullshit, even beyond the bullshit typical of marketing teams (my old colleague was in marketing until a month ago, and I'm paraphrasing him here). They have a more pointed and desperate incentive than most professionals to put old wine in new bottles, or more often cheap hooch and antifreeze. Always have--it's always been difficult to prove a marketing effort's effectiveness--but things are so wildly divorced from reality these days at larger news/information sites that the entire galaxy of online business operations dealing with marketing and advertising can amount to keeping the rest of the C-suite nervous enough that they'll continue to overfund their marketing departments and the people who run them.

But what if, as inevitably happens, a site isn't making enough money to justify its lavish marketing budget? The marketing team will tell you that it's doing a bang-up job, and it'll damned sure have the stats to prove it. Too few CEOs have the nerve or know-how to lay the game bare, so they turn to the other side of the equation:

It must be the content that's underperforming.

And what happens to the content in that case, the work done by journalists who must be solid and principled because no one would ever think of doing their jobs for the crumbs they're paid? It gets superficial, repetitive, derivative. It documents and celebrates trends rather than reflecting on them. Some of it doesn't even get through to an audience. A lot of it gets torn to shreds in editing and reconfigured in more marketable form.

That's why you've been let down by large media corporations and the VC firms that run so many news outlets (Gannett Newspapers? Owned by an Emirati investment group).

The really good stuff is still being pushed through by journalists across the country working for newspapers and other periodicals. Online, it's increasingly being written by independent journalists on smaller websites. That's a return to the pre-Hearst days when someone like Ambrose Bierce could grab a gallon of whiskey and a loaded revolver, sit down at a typewriter, and knock out an issue every few days of a local paper. We've been there before, and some good things came of it. We haven't been there before with the bloated and dangerously septic carcass of a broader industry crashing down among the scattered purveyors of real journalism. Interesting times.
The Sun-Times online edition took a big risk by going completely non-profit and making subscriptions donations of any rate. Makes donations tax-deductible, too.


It’s only been a couple years, but I’m curious how that has served them and impacted their reporting quality.
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JMO but I think it will sort itself out - for sports journalism at least. Politics/world news is a lost cause. But sports is easier. Casuals can consume decent content on ESPN (which is a paid medium ultimately) or lesser content for free on local TV news/sports. There’s also Twitter, and even casual fans know who is real (Shefter) vs who is a bullshitter (Sports Mockery). And for online sites, there’s the Atlantic (paid medium) for people who want good writing and deeper analysis / less clickbait.

Consumers make these choices, often unwittingly. It’s not reasonable to expect high quality journalism for free, there’s a cost to do it well. If you value it, pay for it. I’m very happy with both my ESPN+ and Athletic subscriptions. If you don’t want to pay for it, that’s fine, but don’t expect the same quality product.
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UOK wrote: Sun Feb 25, 2024 5:47 am
The Sun-Times online edition took a big risk by going completely non-profit and making subscriptions donations of any rate. Makes donations tax-deductible, too.


It’s only been a couple years, but I’m curious how that has served them and impacted their reporting quality.
Not sure; I haven't lived in the city since the switch. My folks subscribe, and my dad's skepticism could set a really bad newspaper on fire just from the strength of his glare as he read it, so that's something. The Guardian did something similar, and I'm not sure that it helped.
So much road and so few places, so much friendliness and so little intimacy, so much flavour and so little taste.

Friendship is better than fighting, but fighting is more useful.
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