A big push from a young Cyclones fan

The acrid smell of hot rubber and the whine of tires spinning on melted snow and hard ice filled the air at my apartment complex. My beloved Dodge Charge — in all it’s real-wheel drive shortcomings — could not navigate the slick surface on its own. Monday, my apartment complex manager, Pierce, came out of his office, bundled against the icy weather, and pushed and heaved. He laid down 15 pounds of sand. We finally rocked the car over the ice hump. That night I parked on the street. I thought I had enough tread on clear pavement that I would take off without a problem. I was wrong. I rocked the car as I pushed the gas pedal to the floor. I reversed. I put it in first gear. I made progress in inches. Many people walked by and stared, as if my frustration was an amusement. Then one young mad clad in an Iowa State Cyclones sweatshirt knocked on my passenger side window. I rolled it down. “Can I help?” Oh, you beautiful boy, please do. He pushed. I pressed the pedal and in a few minutes I was free. I yelled thank you at him, but I doubt he heard me. Life has humbled me in recent years. I’ve needed more help than at any point in my life. I’ve received many times over. We read so munch about how much humans hate and fear one another. But there are always helpers, the late children’s television host Fred Rogers told us. Be the helper.

In Marion County, the revolution will be printed

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

Steve Woodhouse sent me a message on Twitter a few days before Christmas.

His message revealed he was crazy.

I’ll elaborate.

He bought a relatively new newspaper called the Marion County Express — a real paper printed on newsprint that can be spread out on the breakfast table or taken to the bathroom to be read on the throne.

Being a journalist in the 21st century is like being an endangered species that is actively hunted. Newspapers aren’t dead yet; they’re more like a hospice patient denied their fentanyl drip.

Greedy Wall Street hustlers gobble up the remains of newspapers large and small. Their finance vampires suck the last of the blood out of papers and let the bodies hit the floor.

Institutions that served their community for 150 years or more die so some billionaires can become fractionally richer.

I don’t blame the corporations or the hedge funds entirely.

I worked for the local newspaper in Des Moines for most of my career.

The digital tools available to editors of newspapers and websites tell people exactly what kinds of stories people want to read.

Here they are:

1. Sports — just the two big universities, not even high schools.

2. Politics, national not local, but the meaner the better.

3. Food and beer, the snobbier the better.

4. Pets, which are the children of the generation that refuses to have children.

5. Salacious crime, especially the kind that can ignite a good race argument or involves a young white woman.

That’s it. Some other stuff will occasionally light up the spreadsheet, but not often.

I tried to do it for four years as a columnist and had so little success that it ripped my guts out.

I took leave several times to sort out my mental health because I truly wondered if I was worth anything at all if I couldn’t be a successful newspaper writer.

The bosses took the column away at the end of 2019. The took my job away in early 2020.

I grieved. I felt like a failure. Then I got some therapy and squared up my head.

I enrolled in graduate school; I start student teaching in a few weeks on my way to becoming a language arts teacher for the second half of my working life.

This brings us to Steve’s message.

I stand by my assessment: He’s whacko.

Newspapers are heartbreakers; this is a heartbreaking time to get into the game.

Half of all journalism jobs disappeared between 1990 and 2020.

Newsrooms cut a quarter of their jobs since the pandemic began.

And Steve wants to dive into the headfirst? Bonkers.

I’ve come to believe newspapers were never as good as I thought they were — and certainly never as good as they led everyone to believe.

I believe in an informed citizenry. I just don’t know how to cope with a citizenry that doesn’t want to be informed.

I remember watching MTV in 1989 when the network was doing a bunch of year-end specials.

Steven Tyler, the lead singer of the band Aerosmith, told an interviewer: “If we had a button on our chest that gave us an orgasm, we’d all press the thing until we passed out.”

That seems to be the republic we want.

News is fine if it confirms what we already believe or makes us angry or keeps us afraid. Put your local TV news on mute sometime and watch the contortions of the anchors’ faces. They look maniacal.

Listen to a weather report about snow. The talk is apocalyptic. It’s all a show designed to keep you watching and clicking.

News should be telling us about our school districts, city councils, and county governments.

Local officials control your schools, police, fire department, paramedics, roads, sewers, libraries, hospitals, and scores of other things that have direct impact on our daily lives.

Presidential politics are important, but it’s not Joe Biden who is going to press the defibrillator paddles on your chest after a heart attack and zap your heart back into rhythm.

One might assume people would care about how well local government is maintaining that equipment and offering training to its departments.

The assumption is wrong.

Instead, we follow presidential politics, where the reporting on the candidates is little more than celebrity gossip mongering.

The idea of issues guiding a campaign is antiquated to the point of absurdity and has been since at least 1960.

Go on YouTube and look up the classic Bob Newhart stand-up comedy routine “Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue.”

After you stop convulsing with laughter, think about presidential elections and you’ll realize his fanciful jokes from more than 60 years ago are our reality.

And yet again Steve wants to buy and run a newspaper in the middle of this nation of hedonists? Looney.

But God bless him, he’s my kind of crazy.

He’s trying to right a wrong. Marion County lost the Pella Chronical and the Knoxville Journal-Express to corporate cutbacks.

He wants to roll up his sleeves and get ink under his fingernails.

So why did he reach out to me?

He wondered if I’d be willing to write a column for the paper.

I said no.

I’ve put that part of my working life to rest.

However, I am a writer. And I have this blog at paragraphstacker.com.

If Steve wanted to pick up posts from my blog, he’s welcomed to publish it.

Maybe you folks in Marion County will like it. I hope so. It’s nice to be liked.

Consider this column just another feature of a great experiment: the Express.

Subscribe and see how it goes.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.

Remembering the Alamo and other New Year’s resolutions for 2022

Ladies, gentlemen, and all points in between, we hope you enjoyed our presentation of 2021, but due to time constraints, we are moving the action forward to 2022.

We begin the New Year by making a list. No, not a grocery list. That’s useful. This is a list of resolutions.

“Resolutions” sound important. Abraham Lincoln was serious when he said “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain” in the Gettysburg Address.

New Year’s Resolutions often are made by people hung over from celebrating the end of the year who have suddenly found religion by praying to the higher power of choice to take the headache and vomiting away.

We here at ParagraphStacker.com didn’t imbibe mass quantiles of anything but iced tea on New Year’s Eve and fell asleep sometime before 11 p.m.

Still, despite our otherwise high standards for comedy, we are not immune to relying on a lazy trope for a column to start the year.

Here, then, are the ol’ Paragraph Stackers New Year’s Resolutions for the year 2022.

I resolve:


To remember the Alamo.


To included in any questions about my musical influences the phrase, “Dylan, obviously.”


To stop finding weight.


To never pass on the opportunity for a nap.


To remember it was Jim Bowie, not David Bowie, who died at the Alamo.


To #neverforget tacos rule.


To never bet the over, the under, the spread, the points, or on Iowa to complete a forward pass.


To never agree to anything with terms and conditions unless I’m being paid money.


To bring the Hamburgler to justice.


To never use the word “present” as if it means something of any greater emotional significant than a person is in attendance.


To remember it was Davey Crockett and not Sonny Crockett who died at the Alamo.


To remember three jokes about the Alamo, including a reference to “Miami Vice,” is probably three too many Alamo jokes to start a year.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.