1996: Morning News

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"1996", this comic's number, redirects here. For the comic named "1996", see 768: 1996.
Morning News
Support your local paper, unless it's just been bought by some sinister hedge fund or something, which it probably has.
Title text: Support your local paper, unless it's just been bought by some sinister hedge fund or something, which it probably has.


Megan is complaining to Hairbun about her easy access to infuriating national news stories and bad opinions (editorial articles and commentary) and worries that it may be having a negative effect on her, perhaps by promoting misinformation, by distraction, or by prompting adverse emotional reaction to content; she muses that, in some way or another, this habit is probably doing some sort of damage to her brain's wiring, training it to think in ways that are not necessarily good. While the capacity of the brain to change and adapt to a person's daily habits is, like most neurological phenomena, as yet not very well understood, it's clear that something of the sort exists--scientists refer to this capacity as "neuroplasticity."

Hairbun sarcastically tells Megan that things were different in her time, implicitly stating that access to infuriating stories via newspapers took only a tiny bit more time and effort during a morning routine compared to accessing them via the Internet.

Megan counters this idea and says that while it is true that newspapers provided the sort of national news she is being provoked by, they also had much more local news mixed in (which may be of a lighter nature, sometimes referred to in a derogatory sense as "fluff" news pieces), to which Hairbun agrees.

Megan also raises the point that bad opinions were not granted wide distribution. Hairbun is rather less quick to agree to this, and suggests that Megan not check that, revealing that Megan’s assertion isn’t entirely true. Indeed, before the Internet, newspapers were a common medium for expressing opinions, either by local columnists or average citizens via letters to the editor, and they, as with any body of opinions throughout history, were frequently noxious or ill-informed.

This comic has a similar tone to 1348: Before the Internet in that it makes fun of the idea that life and society were better "in the good old days".

The title text takes another jab at newspapers as a supposedly superior source of news. Supporting your local paper is generally considered a positive action, as it is often the best or only source for local news (national media can't focus on smaller areas, and radio/television often lacks print media's focus on investigative journalism). However, in recent years, many seemingly independent local newspapers in major cities have been bought up by financial groups rather than traditional publishing companies, and their effect on the industry as a whole has been controversial. Most notably, hedge fund groups often attempt to make newspapers profitable by cutting costs and downsizing, at the expense of quality reporting; critics call such hedge fund groups "vulture capitalists" who are throttling newspapers for short-term profit, without any thought of long-term viability or public service. The owners of the fund may also be unethical or controversial for other reasons. Thus, the standard well-meaning suggestion of supporting your local paper may no longer be good advice.


[Megan, looking on a smartphone in her hand, and Hairbun are standing together and talk.]
Megan: Every morning, before my eyes even focus all the way, I read a bunch of infuriating national news stories and bad opinions. I wonder what this is doing to my brain.
Megan: It's probably not great.
[Zoom in to the head of Hairbun.]
Hairbun: Back in my day, we had to pay people to print out infuriating news stories and bring them to our door. And we waited until we had stumbled out to the kitchen to read them.
Hairbun: Totally different.
[Frameless panel, zoom out on both while Megan has lowered her hand holding the phone.]
Megan: OK, fair. But newspapers at least had more local news mixed in, right?
Hairbun: Yeah, true.
[Same as last panel, except it has a border.]
Megan: I bet they weren't full of bad opinions.
Hairbun: Yyyyyes.
Hairbun: All our opinions were good. It was a remarkable time.
Hairbun: Please don't go check.

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Off topic

There is a new What-If available: Earth-Moon Fire Pole. I'm sure you like this breaking news.--Dgbrt (talk) 16:51, 21 May 2018 (UTC)

Like this news? I'm *ecstatic*.
This may explain why today's comic wasn't very funny (or even coherent): Randall put most of his effort into finishing another What-If. ProphetZarquon (talk) 18:41, 21 May 2018 (UTC)
SQUEEEEEEE!!!!! SilverMagpie (talk) 22:11, 21 May 2018 (UTC)
Kids, if a pole is coming at you at supersonic speeds, then first of all, you're going to die. But secondly, if you try to run away, please don't stay in the pole's path. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Further discussions

Error: Joke not found. ProphetZarquon (talk) 16:35, 21 May 2018 (UTC)

Local news

Not sure what Randall means about local news. Most local papers were evening editions of weekly. The mornning paper carried national news.

Jim Hacker: Don't tell me about the Press. I know *exactly* who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they *ought* to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually *do* run the country. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who *own* the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by *another* country. The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

Bernard Woolley: Sun readers don't care *who* runs the country - as long as she's got big tits. -- Arachrah (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Does this mean that if I read both The Times and The Financial Times I will run the country and own it? Who knew it was so easy! [subscribes to both] ;) PotatoGod (talk) 16:48, 22 May 2018 (UTC)

Reminds me somehow on a book I'm currently reading "QualityLand" by Marc-Uwe Kling (Unfortunately there seems to be no English translation available). The story is set in the not-so-far-future and tries to show the dangers and chances (well, especially the dangers) of the current technological development especially in regard to social media and AI. There are some parallels to "1984" or "Brave New World". Whatever. Printed newspapers ceased to exist. There's however one super-rich guy who bought a printing press and every day his employees print exactly one copy of the current e-print newspaper issue just for him. Which then gets delivered by a boy on a bike. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 11:31, 23 May 2018 (UTC)

"sinister hedge fund"

(This is a rather US-centric cartoon.) In relation to the title text, the explanation talks about media companies, such as Gannett. However, more apposite is cases such as Bay Area News Group (the name referring to the San Francisco Bay Area), which was formed after an East Bay newspaper publisher, McClatchy, snapped up Knight Ridder, a national newspaper chain and rival to Gannett, including its flagship, the San Jose Mercury News, giving it a near-monopoly in the area with the exception of the Hearst Corporation's San Francisco Chronicle, and subsequently sold a bundle of papers including the Mercury News to MediaNews Group (national, had 56 daily newspapers). There were numerous closures and amalgamations of papers along the way, and since a board takeover in 2010, the ultimate owner has been Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund specializing in "distressed properties". Yngvadottir (talk) 21:16, 22 May 2018 (UTC)

I can't think of anything that needs to be added to this explanation, so I removed the "incomplete" tag. Hope that's ok! Berets (talk) 03:21, 26 May 2018 (UTC)