Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

When news is slow, the news media turn to the birds and bees...

05/09/2013 6:00 PM

05/14/2013 12:07 PM

Yesterday, we had a young student from Sacramento City College in to visit our editorial board. She asked a number of interesting questions, which we all answered as best we could. One of the responses involved the concept of having to produce content (read:fill large white space with words, fast) when "nothing is going on."

Now, the phrase "nothing going on" in the news business is one that may seem incredible to the casual observer. The most common statement I get from readers is along the lines of, "You must be having a field day with all that's going on." Sure. I'm having a field day -cartoonists always have "field days"-- when something everyone is talking about is going on. For example, with two words that Gov. Jerry Brown uttered in reference to the Bay Bridge ("sh** happens") permitted me to get a day ahead, which, in concept, I like, but almost never am. But in having to produce six or so cartoons per week, and write this blog every day, it also leaves me sometimes noting that "nothing is going on."

Hence the theme of this column. Am I at 600 words yet? Here are some more words: ratiocinate, imbued, verdant, truculent...how many is that? Am I closer to 600?

Anyway, what do I do when "nothing is going on?"

Well, I just pretend that you care about some subject in the news. For example, there is a major problem with honey bee reproduction right now, but you would never know it on the television networks. Apparently these Kardashian girls are a bigger story. Of course, if these Kardashian girls stop producing news, it won't lead to a world agricultural collapse. If we had one of those, and every human died, it could really cut into the ratings. So I did a cartoon encouraging bees to reproduce.

I would think that if honey bees read any newspaper, it would be The Sacramento Bee.

When "nothing is going on" in the news, that means it's usually August. That means the news media has to manufacture news, so we do things like "Shark Week," or find a philandering politician, or commemorate an anniversary of an actual news event.

There are a lot of those. In fact, this year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination, the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of Bill Clinton, and the 10th anniversary of the War in Iraq. With reference to the Kennedy assassination, I can assure you that in November we will all be watching breathless documentaries about "what really happened" in Dallas (Oswald did it, sorry, I know that's boring and you won't watch that), and "new questions" will be raised, and that "new scientific tests will be conducted" on some piece of evidence, which will lead to even more questions, leading to even more documentaries.

Because nothing is going on.

When 9/11 occurred, one of the things I was profoundly wrong about was that the news media might regain some of its former seriousness and go back to, you know, reporting news. That lasted about two weeks or so. Then, convinced "nothing is going on," again, all of a sudden we know way more about the Kardashians.

In any event, it may seem like nothing is going on sometimes, but lots of things are going on, and it's not the Kardashians.

We should ask the bees.

While we can.

About This Blog

Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award and the national SPJ Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com. Twitter: @JACKOHMAN.


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