Gary Rotstein’s The Morning File: No duh — stop us if you've read this before

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It's easy to be struck dumb (in the speechless rather than stupid way, or maybe both) by what newspapers present as news.

Things that seem so obvious make it onto the front page and we scratch our heads, thinking, "Are people actually surprised by that, after all this time? Doesn't that go without saying by now?"

Sometimes the newspaper even admits the lack of shock value, as in this story atop the Post-Gazette's front page Wednesday: "It may seem obvious, but now there's proof: Physical activity of moderate intensity can help older people stay mobile and independent, according to the largest clinical trial ever done on the issue."

Yes, we get it: exercise = good; lying around on couch = bad. It goes for old people, middling adults, kids, dogs, politicians, zombies, terrorists, anyone you can think of, really. They've all been studied by now, and the results are always the same.

Couldn't we have at least one story that reads: "Adults who watched an extraordinarily high amount of television and their children who excessively played video games all improved in physical conditioning and cognitive abilities compared to control groups, flummoxed university researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association today."

Earlier in the week came this Associated Press news flash out of Texas: "Authorities say rapper Wiz Khalifa has been arrested in West Texas for marijuana possession."

Hmmm, here's a young man of extreme wealth who'd been arrested for drug possession before and who, if we understand correctly, glorifies the qualities associated with marijuana in nearly every one of his popular songs. And he's -- what's this? -- actually using the stuff he rhapsodizes about? G'wan, knock me over with a bong.

We yearn to read one day: "Police with drug-sniffing dogs left the tour bus of Pittsburgh-bred rapper Wiz Khalifa empty-handed yesterday after finding only numerous bags of the leafy, green vegetable that is the subject of his latest hit, 'Kale Party (Yo, Reduce Your Cholesterol, Playaz).'"

Harrisburg is notorious for offering up these "Dog Bites Man" stories that conjure up all kinds of thoughts of the world repeating itself in "Groundhog Day."

Early in May the following appeared in the newspaper: "Efforts stalled this week among state Senate Republicans trying to craft a bill to increase the availability of beer and wine in Pennsylvania, and with lawmakers adjourning Wednesday, the earliest the issue could see further action is June."

Is there a year of modern vintage that we couldn't have read that same story about revamping the laws covering the archaic state store system? A month? A week?

Oh, what we wouldn't give to read the following soon: "Champagne corks popped in both the House and Senate chambers yesterday as giddy, drunken lawmakers reveled in compromise passage of legislation to allow commonplace retail sale of wine and beer in Pennsylvania, as in nearly every other state in the union."

Coverage of the local sports world is replete with the stories we've read before, like this beginning to one a mere two weeks ago: "The distasteful end to another lost season of Penguins hockey ..."

The stories about the Pens' playoff ousters aren't so different from annual harbingers of spring like this March 23 story that described an NCAA tournament game involving the biggest college basketball team in town: "Pitt's dreams of a trip to the Sweet 16 were smothered Saturday by ..."

In the sports world, no one wants to see the same pattern year after year, unless, of course, it involves repeated local championships. The uncertainty of what each season will bring is a large part of what creates interest; it sparked the joy over the Pirates' success last year (and frustration with them this year). If we had known before the start of the last two Steelers seasons that they would go a middling, mediocre 8-8, who would have even paid attention?

Despite the repetition, whether in the sports or news world, we'll still keep reading the morning newspaper. For one thing, it's part of the job requirement. For another, sometimes you learn something new, like Thursday's front page story that started: "A sharp disagreement has flared up between Highmark and UPMC about ..."

Or have we read that before?

Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255.

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