1996: Morning News
- "1996", this comic's number, redirects here. For the comic named "1996", see 768: 1996.
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.
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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