Back in 1994, during the Major League Baseball strike, the Detroit Free Press ran a series of fictional articles about real Major League baseball players who were assembling at a mystery location to play a series of baseball games.
The articles, which were penned by Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, became the highlight of my suddenly baseball-less summer. I ran to the kitchen table every morning to grab the sports page before my Dad did so that I could read, with my strawberry frosted Pop-Tart in hand, the next installment.
If my memory serves me, readers could try to guess where the series was being held. If you guessed correctly, you won a prize. Probably a badge, or something. But you still won.
I distinctly remember a poorly edited image of a pitcher (maybe Jim Abbott?) standing in front of a volcano, which totally gave away the location.
[Editor's note: If anybody can find a link to these articles, please share with me. I can't find them for anything. Makes me wonder if I'm going senile.]
But it was still the coolest thing I had ever read in newsprint.
It was original.
It took some guts.
And it got me, a 14-year-old and potential future newspaper subscriber, excited about reading a newspaper.
In 2005, Mitch Albom wrote an article for the Detroit Free Press for an NCAA Tournament game in which he described former Michigan State Spartans Jason Richardson and Mateen Cleeves being in attendance.
In fact, they were not.
The story goes that he spoke to both NBA stars before he wrote his column, and both said they were planning to attend the game.
Unfortunately for Albom, their plans changed. But the article had already been sent to the printers.
So while readers read about two former stars in attendance at a game watching their alma mater, neither were in St. Louis.
Albom was rightfully suspended for his error, and his reputation was, in the eyes of some, forever tarnished.
And, by association, so was the paper’s.
At this stage in his career, Albom enjoys a bit of carte blanche when deciding what to write about.
And why he wouldn’t he? He’s the best thing the Free Press has going for them right now.
He seems to have broken the shackles of newsworthiness that are bound to most other newspapers reporters and columnists, and has been known to fill column inches with rants that more closely resemble the furious key-pounding of bloggers than respected journalists.
And never was that more evident than last week when he penned an article for the Detroit Free Press that would’ve made the Unabomber proud.
It was an unabashed diatribe against technology that, in my opinion, has no place in a daily newspaper.
In the piece, Albom wrote “the very devices that are keeping us from communicating with each other now suggest you get verbally cozy with them.”
Dude. It’s 2012.
I mean, I get his argument. (Who would rather talk to a robot than a human being?) But that’s really not the point here.
For a writer who once captivated me on a daily basis with his inventive work, this article left me imagining him as an old man who has grown afraid of change; afraid of what the world is coming to. That man in your neighborhood who sits on the front porch and yells at passing cars to slow down.
But when it comes to the newspaper, Mitch Albom is the perfect personification of the struggle the daily has to endure on a daily basis.
The business isn’t suddenly going to reverse its fortunes and return to the booming times of its heyday. At a certain point, they just have to accept that change is accelerating to the point where they can’t keep up.
The world has advanced to a point where waiting overnight for news is considered wasting time.
That’s just how it is.
And no amount of ranting or raving is going to change that.