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If you write it, they will read

The column is just the lucky piece of print that has managed to find its way onto the back of the Diversions page. On days when the crossword puzzle gets extracted from the rest of the paper as the only hope of salvation from your tedious classes, there too remains some hope for the column. Maybe you'll finish your "Wonderword" and your crossword puzzle or become hopelessly stuck on both and go in search of another distraction, which brings you to unfold the sheet and turn over to the column.

This fortunate little column will attempt to not bore you into concentrating on the lecture being given by the professor at the head of the room. It may not be a hard-hitting news story or a touching tale of a charity event, but it should help to pass the time just as well. Once you look up at the chalkboard full of equations you don't want to hear explained, you rarely feel your two minutes devoted to skimming the column was wasted; in fact, you may even be grateful for the extra seconds of mind-numbing entertainment the piece provides.

Perhaps you would rather not get your hands dirty with the residue of The Daily Targum ink or bother with the inflated and impetuous writings of a pitiable, unpaid columnist. Instead, you may choose to explore the cavernous depths of the World Wide Web for something worth reading. Certainly, as college students with so much required reading to do, any extraneous texts are tightly constrained by a strict personal quota and every bit better merit your attention.

Maybe you go for Google News, which compiles articles from a variety of sources and designates 10 categories for your reading pleasure: top stories, world, U.S., business, sci/tech, entertainment, sports, health, spotlight and most popular. Where else but through a database can you remain committed to finding only the most newsworthy stories from an upstanding, unbiased and all-encompassing source?

Unfortunately, there may not be an answer to that question. Even with Google News pulling what they deem to be the best from a wide range of otherwise less than objective papers, they too seem to be deviating from the once high standards on newsworthiness.

Under "top stories," the headlines "As NASA tests new rocket, long-range mission remains unclear" and "Will Michael Jackson attend his own movie premiere?" sit adjacent to one another. When you navigate over to "most popular," "Kate Gosselin talks remarriage … In about 40 years" appears at the very top, even trumping "Best and worst states for H1N1 flu vaccine info."

It is difficult to say, however, if standards of the news industry are slipping or if it is our own values which have plummeted. Are we fueling the media's fire with what we read or are they fueling ours with what they publish? The ideas of what is worth publishing could have simply been readjusted to cater to our strange infatuation with celebrities and reality television stars, or Kate Gosselin news may have sparked our interest just because it's being run at the top of the page. It's a chicken and the egg scenario, and we may never be able to solve it.

It seems that whether you are using up your pleasure reading credits on a Targum column, Google News or Dan Brown, you're taking a similar risk. Brown may have devoted five years longer to his preliminary research than I have for this column, but you still may not like what he as to say or the way he has to say it. Likewise, Google News may give the appearance of a site intent on bringing you the best of the best, but you will have to drudge through some tabloid pieces there too in your quest to find something more laudable.

I know this is not your "Field of Dreams." I did not write this under the presumption that you have been waiting all you life to read it, nor did I suspect that it might bring you profound change. I did not even go as far as to assume that if I write it, you or someone sitting next to you on the bus, a very bored person doing the crossword puzzle in your class or even a single person who picks the Targum up today will read it.

I'm fairly convinced that no one can be as certain as that voice was out in the cornfield when he told Kevin Costner's character, "If you build it, he will come." I certainly doubt that Jon or Kate Gosselin could have foreseen their coveted spot as "most popular" atop the Google News page. So, just maybe you'll get stumped by the crossword today, need something else to do and stumble across this.

Larissa Klein is a School of Arts and Sciences junior. Her column "Definition of Insanity" runs on alternate Thursdays. She welcomes feedback at [email protected] 

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