Tony Blankley

It's not only the top of the market old media like CBS and the New York Times that are under assault. In the last few days there have been stories about the travails of the National Enquirer and the New York Daily News' gossip columnist, Liz Smith, drowning in the digital storm.

 It seems the Enquirer has lost a cool million readers per edition in circulation over the last eight years -- down to 1.5 million over its historic high of 4 million in the halcyon days of the 1970s.

 Liz Smith, proud to be a gossip columnist a publicity agent could do business with, is down to 70 newspapers for her syndicated column. She cheerfully admits that she may be the last of the breed, and that it would be nuts to pay the million bucks a year she pulls down for a new hot print gossip columnist. 

 Unnamed Washington Post gossip staffers confess on background that they spend their days reading Wonkette on the Internet scooping their stories -- because she can be up as fast as she can type, while they have to wait for the next day's Washington Post to be manufactured and shipped to its distribution points almost a day after the hot rumor has already been consumed by a ravenous public.

 Is nothing sacred? Walter Winchell must be rotating in his grave, considering that the noble work of print gossip is being usurped by irresponsible digital gossips. In the old days, you could rely on printed gossip to be a genuine, certified rumor or double entendre sexual reference. (Have you noticed that there is invariably only one possible meaning to a double entendre?)

 But today, the public is being fed unreliable digital gossip. What you read on an Internet gossip blog may not be a genuine rumor at all. The blogger may have made up the rumor out of whole cloth (or, to update the phrase, out of virgin electrons.)

 Of course, its true that once the fabricated rumor (again, our language is lagging behind our technology. Something made of whole cloth is fabricated. But something made up of virgin electrons is "inputed" or "uploaded" -- once the uploaded rumor has been downloaded, it becomes a genuine rumor.

 Still, there seems to be something more reliable, more substantial, about rumors printed on paper. Behind that rumor stands a large building filled with hundreds of employees paying federal state and local taxes. The words used to make up the rumor weren't just typed, willy-nilly, on some $50 keyboard. When print media was really print media, each letter of each word of each sentence was cast in molten lead and assembled in large trays.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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