Tuesday, November 28, 2006

That cultural divide, ch. LXXVII

Another minor addition to the pile of stuff suggesting that the big gap in Meedja Bias isn't some notional left vs. right thing but rather a Brie-vs.-Me thing.

Passport in hand, shots updated, cleft sticks at the ready, Noah Adams left NPR's foreign desk for tobacco country (burley, not brightleaf, but what the heck). Though his introduction to the art of tobacco stripping isn't online at this check, it sort of cut through the morning fog around here because of the simile he used for tobacco in the barn: It looks like "giant romaine lettuce leaves."

Hmm. We here at HEADSUP-L don't regret for a moment the steady disentangling of tobacco from American cultural life. (OK, maybe for just a moment; some parts of grammar teaching would be a lot easier if "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" and "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch" didn't draw such blank stares.) But do you figure part of the generalized distrust felt toward The Meedja in some sectors of the population stems from this tendency to explain tobacco in terms of romaine, rather than romaine in terms of tobacco?


Blogger Strayhorn said...

Sweet merciful blood-stained gods. Will someone tell Mr Adams that the reason this particular barn has a lot of open spaces is because someone isn't maintaining the cedar shingles?

Tobacco barns work best when the air moves from the bottom up, using this country magic called "rising heat."

P.S. watch out for the black snakes that like to lie on the uppermost sticks to catch birds.

1:20 PM, November 28, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

Yeah, Noah did have a bad case of Stranger in a Strange Land for this one, didn't he?

2:28 PM, November 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intersting. I will find out more about this. Toner

6:28 PM, November 28, 2006  
Anonymous Matt said...

Stranger in a strange land? Sure. But I'd be lost too. I've never been on a tobacco farm and have no idea what tobacco in leaf form looks like. I've had salads with romaine lettuce, though. Do the majority of Americans have similar life experience?

Journalists have to report for people who have no idea what they're talking about, especially when niche topics are on the agenda. I appreciate it, and if we (journos) did more of it -- instead of writing in code as the AP tends to do, for instance -- maybe circulation wouldn't be so bad. People don't want to read (or listen to) things they can't or have to work too hard to understand.

(Full disclosure: I didn't listen to the story -- my work computer won't let me.)

6:31 PM, November 28, 2006  
Anonymous Linray said...

It's kinda hard to get all het up over an attempt at giving the reader a visual tag, unless it trips me as I stroll through the field. This effort could be interpreted as a bit snooty, but I'd be willing to be more people in the U.S. have seen romaine lettuce than have set eyes on a tobacco field, whether they be the hoity toity romaine-eaters or the hoi poloi iceberg crowd. Let's see a show of hands (as FEV is wont to say): Who knows the difference between burley and brightleaf without looking it up?

9:39 AM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger Peter Fisk said...

Love your blog, Fev, but this objection to the romaine lettuce reference is a "head"-scratcher. There are surely a great many people for whom the description will be helpful, including untold hordes of filthy commoners, who, counterintuitive as it may seem, have spent slightly more time shopping in supermarkets than toiling in tobacco barns. Some of them have even been observed eating salad along with their meat-’n’-potatoes gruel, or so I hear. Romaine is a very basic, widely known variety of lettuce. It’s not as if Adams said the tobacco looks like “hydroponically grown organic Boston bib lettuce.”

Hey, here's a story idea for Al's Morning Meeting: What percentage of regular NPR listeners have more experience farming tobacco than preparing Caesar salad?

11:28 AM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I'd have a hard time believing even most chain smokers know what tobacco in the leaf looks like. Even back home, where it used to be the staple "Christmas money" crop, fewer fields are planted with it now than ever before - and most of the people who drive past those fields wouldn't be able to identify the crop. Explaining tobacco in terms of romaine seems reasonable; explaining romaine in terms of tobacco would be downright weird, if you ask me.

6:47 PM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

OK, OK. I suppose I should clarify some things:
1) I like spirited debate and lots of visitors checking in (though if the guys flogging the toner could go somewhere else to do it, I'd be grateful).
2) I like romaine! Hell, I grow the stuff (along with butterhead and whatever kinds of leaf we have around). If I grew tobacco as badly as I grow lettuce, I'd be, um, subsidized or something.
3) I like NPR. I like NPR a lot, and I'm reminded of how much every time I have one of the commercial networks on when the news rolls 'round. For all NPR's annoying flaws, I'd be a lot happier if it had the demographic reach of a real public service broadcaster, like the Beeb. I wish a _lot_ more people listened to it. So I tend to throw stuff at the cats when NPR seems to be affirming its place as broadcaster to the elite.

Y'all will be pleased to know that Dr. HEADSUP-L looked over things this afternoon, and she too thinks romaine has more explanatory power than tobacco.

11:22 PM, November 30, 2006  
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