CSpan was better, in the end, than morphine

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

BY ART CULLEN

That morphine, I can see how you can become addicted to it. They gave me a dose before hernia surgery Friday morning at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center. I became perfectly agreeable to whatever it was they needed to do. They wheeled me into the bright room, they put a mask on my face, the nurse anesthetist said hello and I bid good night.

I woke up to the amiable Dr. John Armstrong dangling a jock strap in front of my face. I put it on, was ushered out and returned to my normal slouch in the chair packed in ice and stoked on laxatives to offset that morphine. No more of those lovely opiates for me, thanks, just ibuprofen, the College World Series, CNN and CSpan.

If it is the CWS in Omaha then it must be 110 degrees on the field, which it predictably was. You don’t need Ron Demers to tell you that. The heat and ping of aluminum, probably imported from China, was too much for my groin to bear. So were the shaming photos of children locked in detention centers near the border on CNN. You can only take so many hours of that in relief from Tarzan movies or Wagon Train reruns while awaiting the magic of Miralax.

CSpan was my port of respite, as I have become more interested in books lately. Especially the business of books. The channel hosted a discussion among three of the biggest publishers: MacMillan, Simon and Schuster, and Penguin Random House (which is publishing my book in October). Naturally, I was interested, and especially as the literary publishers discussed First Amendment rights — this is an area where the heavy lifting has generally been done by the newspaper industry. So it was a certain delight. Their general theme was that the book industry has recovered nicely from the retail, digital and general economic upheaval of the last decade. The number of independent book stores is growing. Audio book sales continue to grow 30% annually, and the share of e-books to print has stabilized at 20% digital to 80% print. Readership of children’s books and young adult lines are growing. It all suggests that Penguin should have written me a bigger advance.

They also all reported unprecedented attempts in their careers by the government to attempt to influence or even prevent publication of certain books. Carolyn Ready, CEO of Simon and Schuster, in a subsequent televised speech to PEN America, highlighted journalists from around the world being locked up for telling the truth. Likewise, American reporters are threatened with jail by a government obsessed with hiding the facts about who might be stealing our elections. Attorney General Eric Holder made John Mitchell look like a puppy when it came to trying to muzzle the press.

Switching to another CSpan channel with call-ins, an eloquent man who has done his reading is convinced that the “media,” whatever that is, is actively attempting to distort reality. Over on CNN, another one of those conservatives with a goatee essentially said the same of The New York Times and Washington Post, and this fellow has a silk hankie and a degree.

Fortunately, it appears that people want the facts. Adult non-fiction is selling. The New York Times, Washington Post, Minneapolis StarTribune and The Storm Lake Times are growing in paid circulation. It’s because all these newspapers are pouring what they have into quality, and that will find its reward. Breitbart News is in a freefall, exposed for what it is. Chain publications that continue to milk the product, and the community, are finding that the cow is drying up. Those who serve the reader, and not the shareholder, first will survive.

And so will I. After all, I woke up. I might make it through this thing. Carolyn Ready, who sure looks like a tough cookie, has a way of bucking you up. If you are not willing to defend what you have to say, then you must not have anything worth saying. All I could think about was when the Miralax would kick in, but in the meantime CSpan provided vital distraction, and then finally relief. It is the life I lead.