Posted by: johnhourihan | July 6, 2012

Network news is like a carnival

I believe in balloon-darts.

The news of the day is, “Be outraged,” again.

One thing I learned during my several decades working in journalism is that sometimes people in that profession take things just a bit too seriously.
It’s a show.
To understand the real gravity of the situation you just have to look at how serious journalists such as myself got into newspapers or TV in the first place.
You must understand first that, life, for a teen American, has always been like a trip to the carnival.
Louie, my best friend at the time, ran the balloon-dart booth in a carnival with his old man, so it wasn’t a total surprise when he announced in his car at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning that he was headed for Barnstable for a few days to work.
It was a surprise that he hadn’t told me while we were still in town, and now I wouldn’t be going home for a few days.
It was the summer between high school and real life, and we pretty much did whatever we wanted.
So not going home for a few days wasn’t a big deal, but I wasn’t looking forward to sleeping on the hard, cold grass floor under the balloon-dart tent on the Cape in early June.
As we approached the Bourne Bridge, Louie pulled over at a rest area and started rummaging through garbage cans.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Newspapers,” he said. “Help me.”
When we had found enough, he opened a cardboard box beside the refuse pile we had made in the open trunk.
Deflated teddy bears, and other unstuffed animals that looked eerily like Kermits and Miss Piggies, but not quite, were pulled from the box and stuffed with the paper. “Why newspapers?” I asked him.
“They’re everywhere, they’re cheap, and they’re usually clean, and they crumple up good.”
We stuffed the prizes people would win today at his booth and continued on to the carnival.
We parked the Caddy and slept inside the tent on the ground. Then we woke to a beautiful spring day and grumbling stomachs.
That afternoon I found myself in a meadow adjacent the carny watching a horse-pulling contest.
There is only one reason I would ever watch horses pulling sleds loaded with concrete slabs across a field.
She was standing across from me on the opposite side of the run. Incredible blue eyes and short-cropped blond hair, and she had the greatest, well, anyways, she got my attention.
I waited for a break in the action and walked across to stand next to her.
We made some talk, but I was dizzy from the way she looked, and smelled, and sounded, and a lot of the words never registered.
Later, we sat at the edge of the carnival on a downed telephone pole and ate hot dogs to the sound of a calliope and the smell of the onions and creosote, and she asked me what I wanted to do with my life.
“Newspapers,” I blurted.
It was the only thing that came to mind.
“Why newspapers?” she asked. I laughed. I had heard that somewhere before.
“They’re everywhere, and they’re cheap, and they crumble real good, and I can make more money at it than in a carnival.”
She laughed. “That’s just plain stupid.”
“That’s just your opinion,” I said.
“And you have a different one?”
I did, and got up and left.
She wasn’t so hot that I would sit around and be called stupid.
So there it was.
That’s how I decided to pursue a career in newspapers, because it paid more than the balloon-dart tent, and it was also the afternoon I decided my opinion was worth something.
But then, as now, if I have an opinion about something, and then spend an extra ten minutes thinking about it, I might have another opinion altogether.
She did have great eyes.
So for those who have read anything I have written in the past 35 years and then called me traitor, bigot, snob, fool or worse — and for those who have called me good things too, I’d like to tell you something.
I am of the opinion that a lot of people stopped reading the newspapers or anything else when they forgot it was supposed to be enjoyable.
So please get a grip.
Since I’m just writing down what comes to me, I think sometimes it’s all just God’s entertainment.  Being alive right now is a lot like being lost in a carnival.
And sometimes we take it all, and ourselves, far too seriously.
So, during the upcoming election, whether you watch CNN, MSNBC or Fox News for your supposedly unbiased news of the day, please understand that these people you are watching are paid to take things far too seriously, especially themselves.
I’d say they are all just carny hucksers, but that would be demeaning to carny hucksters.



  1. I like carnivals, life and most of what you write John…

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