John Harrigan: And now, as we look back ... (No, wait! It's Groundhog Day!)
Back when I first broke into the crazy world of newspapering - in 1968, when I migrated about eight miles east from the Lorden Lumber Company in Milford to the Nashua Telegraph - I learned to loathe the inevitable assignment at year's end, which was (a little heavy music here) the Year in Review assignment.
This was, to put it mildly, mind-numbing. The only things worse to get from an editor were "Go out and get me a hot weather photo" (Mike Shalhoup at the Telegraph) and, three years later when I moved north to the New Hampshire Sunday News, the even more dreaded "Man in the Street Interview" (Joe Barnea, Sunday News).
Third on my Hapless News Guy at the Hands of Tired, Devoid of Imagination Editors nightmare list is the even duller New Year's Resolution List. (Fess-up disclaimer: I've been a newspaper editor for 38 of the 44 years I've been in the game. But at least, unlike all the others, I have an imagination. I think.)
I don't believe in resolutions because I don't make any, on account of a lifetime of seeing everyone else breaking them. So I prefer a New Year's Wish List:
-- Fish and Game would have enough money to do the job right. This means enough dough to field enough biologists and game wardens (sorry, "conservation officers") to make sound wildlife decisions and pinch scofflaws. New trucks would be good, too.
-- Other outdoor recreational users besides those of us who buy hunting and fishing licenses would pay their fair share. This means that hikers, climbers, kayakers and canoeists would pay an excise tax on their equipment just as those who hunt and fish do. See "fairness" in the New Unabridged Harrigan Whassamatta-U Dictionary. I was part of a symposium or something a billion years ago when a friend and bigwig from the Appalachian Mountain Club pledged to work to do just that. What happened?
-- Vandals with guns would never be described in news reports as "hunters." We're making headway on that, but it still happens.
-- Media reporters would know a handgun from a long gun, let alone a rifle from a shotgun, or an automatic from a revolver. Probably too much to hope for. Oh, and lest we forget, they'd know that a permit for a gun is not required in New Hampshire, nor is one required to carry a concealed weapon if it's not loaded, nor is one required to carry a loaded weapon if it's not concealed, but, yes, one is required for a loaded, concealed weapon. (This reminds me, demented mind that it is, that when I owned the Coös County Democrat and, thus, had total, despotic, autocratic control, I had fun running bogus classified ads, one of which went something like "Wanted: Six-week-old pigs, or maybe six, week-old pigs, but not six, weak old pigs." Only the odd reader got it.)
-- National reporters would be aware that the state with the most lax gun laws, as in "hardly any, and in fact none," is our neighboring state, she of cows, verdant mountains (hint), gentle people, land of Ben and Jerry's, Birkenstocks, rimless glasses, ponytails, Volvos and yurts (you guessed it), Vermont. They also shoot fish there. It bears saying that, for the national media, at least, it is not PC to beat up on Vermont.
-- The national media, which show up every four years for the primary to: (a) be totally ignorant of New Hampshire's history; (b) dump on our 400-member General Court, even though it is impossible to buy 400 people or keep a secret; and (c) wonder why we're so important, would learn something. For instance, our long record of thinking up stuff that's copied by others (Current Use, for instance) and being tolerant (except for that foregoing business about Vermont).
-- Nobody would ever be allowed to use the term "gone viral" in print. Electronic and cyberspace media would be exempt because what do they know? Print rules.
-- Ditto for "gone missing." This is a British-sounding term and is used by our media to sound more intelligent, which of course we are. Actually, it's an Australian term, the equivalent of "gone walkabout." For the proper news-story space-saving term, see, in Harrigan's Whassamatta-U Dictionary, "lost."
-- The use of the word "churlish" would be forbidden, except by me, because once in a while that's what I get to be, after 38 years (and counting) of writing this column.
-- But wait, there's more! I'm not really churlish, just self-indulgent. Which gives me the excuse to say (hackneyed phrase alert): Happy New Year, and the best for readers and everyone else (but why aren't you?) for 2013 and beyond.
John Harrigan's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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