The dying of the light

The Globe and Mail has recently added a new feature, a half-page wanna-be-there story about some sunbaked resort, festive cruise, or guided tour so grand that it will turn you into one of those sought-after influencers. At the end of each massaged piece there’s always a reverent sentence, displayed in an italic font, that says something like: “The writer was a guest of Fantasy Farm but the Farm did not read or approve the story before publication.”
Last Saturday there were two such articles in my morning paper, both on skiing in Japan, written by two different authors about two different resorts in that one far-off country. Such abundance! The war in Ukraine could not keep up.
While the generous hosts may not approve these stories, they might as as well have. The articles are usually fawning flapdoodle efforts except for some minor complaint as a lawn chair that would not open easily. Rarely does anyone find surprises like hair clogging the bathroom sink or having to suffer a surly waiter. 
To be sure, other writers have enjoyed an equally special status. During the 1970s, members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery could order a drink delivered swiftly by a gallery staffer to their seat while they typed. Back at home office, however, editors pored over everything from the accuracy of their submission all the way to proper punctuation.
But today when newsroom layoffs are occurring two before tea, outlets across the country are closing down, and thoughtful television documentary programs such as W5 are being killed, I worry about what will remain for us to read and watch in the not-too-distant future. Already there are two- and four-page spreads in my morning newspaper with stories and topics that have been penned by advertisers or interest groups. Fortunately, so far they are marked at the top with the word “Content” much like the mediaeval leper at the castle gates who uttered “Unclean” to anyone who strayed too close. 
As a result of all these failings and firings, the future of journalistic institutions that used to set the agenda for debate across the country is becoming clearer. Here’s my prediction: newspapers will soon be written using Artificial Intelligence paid for by advertisers thereby making them little better than those flyers you throw away as soon as they slither through your mailbox. Not even George Orwell, author of the novel 1984, could have imagined a totalitarian regime so bleak.

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