Sunday, November 15, 2009

Genesis -- The Ombudsman

In the Beginning was the Word.

And God in his infinite generosity decided to share the word, so he created Man.

And Man was delighted with the word and used it constantly, incessantly and in multitudes.

And God saw that Man needed an outlet for his words, so He created Woman in order to provide Man with a captive audience who would hang on Man's every word and agree with him on all things great and small. But that didn't work.

Thus, after countless eons of observing Man's failure to communicate, God caused the printing press to be invented, even though well aware of what would transpire when anybody who could afford one would be able to publish his own opinion on every imaginable subject, including thoughts that had not yet occurred to anyone and perhaps shouldn't. To ease the tension between those who owned printing presses and those who didn't, God created the ombudsman.

Blessed is the ombudsman, a peacemaker perpetually pouring conciliatory oil upon troubled waters. As a member of one team (the Insiders), his job is to listen to the complaints of the other team (the Outsiders) and report back so that the Insiders can tell him how misguided, reprehensible, and even unprintable are the opinions of the Outsiders. When the ombudsman protested that even Outsiders are entitled to their opinions, his colleagues dismissively responded, "let them get their own newspaper!"

And this made God angry, and He quoth, "up with this state of affairs I will not put," thereby setting on edge the remaining teeth of those few aged copy editors who hadn't set their spellcheckers on auto-correct.

And He smote the newspapers, forcing many of them into Chapter 11 and winnowing the staffs of others down to a pitiful few. And, just for good measure, He created the blog, thereby confounding those who had thought that it was Satan who was responsible for the Internet. Almighty indeed was the wrath provoked by the dissing of the ombudsman.

And so, they reformed, lionizing the ombudsman and giving him his own PA to screen complaints. And God was pleased. And He rewarded the Insiders by casting Craig Newmark into the fiery pit, restoring circulation to pre-1990 levels, re-making the Editorial page so as to be reader-friendly, and lavishing Pulitzers upon the editors, each and every one.

This piece also ran in the "Cape Cod Times" and in "Editor & Publisher".

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