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"Third-rate men, of course, exist in all countries, but it is only here that they are in full control of the state, and with it all the national standards."
Cursor bites back--H.L. Mencken

edia criticism, almost of necessity, is something of a twelve-headed dog; in the current debased climate of public reportage and opinion there are simply never enough sets of teeth to go around. And in these days of intense and exasperated scrutiny, media criticism may just be America’s favorite participation sport. All across America, in living rooms and offices and bars, popping off about the media and its absurdities and excesses has become a sort of democratic version of Mystery Science Theater, with people everywhere talking back to the television, ranting in the privacy of their cars, and tossing aside the morning newspaper in frustration.

We at CURSOR are certainly no strangers to this populist bile, and of the many wonders of the World Wide Web, perhaps foremost is the opportunity it affords cranks and crackpots like ourselves to strut our stuff for an audience, however imaginary that audience may be. We do believe, however, that there are others out there just like us, fed up with the bottom feeders, bandwagon jumpers, pig pilers, glad handers, and opium peddlers of the media. We believe that the tired old saw about the journalist’s responsibility being to "Afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted," is increasingly irrelevant in a community where the members of the media are so often accorded community rank and celebrity status that places them in the upper echelons of the comfortable; and where what is passed off as comfort is too often purely manipulative and exploitative (see: CURSOR’s EC Watch), and what passes for affliction is usually little more than the sniping of dimwits and morons.

We are tired of the shameless mythologizing and appropriation of every imagined aspect of local and regional identity, the insidious, entrenched variations on the old "Good Neighbor" model. WCCO –in first its radio operations, and later carried over into television—must be held responsible as the station that managed to take insincerity simultaneously into the realms of the mythological and the surreal. With the result that our media celebrities are now essentially method actors, playing the roles of archetypal Minnesotans. The sole exception being our local sportswriters, who are eternally cultivating summerstock variations on the edgy and snide New York sports hack of yore.

We are tired also of the local cult of the weatherman, the giddy and avuncular meteorological sage, and of the pervasive cross-marketing of our media figures (the sportswriter, for instance, passing himself off as radio pundit on issues ranging far beyond the world of sports).

We are fed up with the vacuity that we are too often expected to accept in the place of acuity, of participatory journalism that too often involves blatant boosterism, of shameless picket fence bullshit nostalgia that paints us as homespun yokels with one foot still mired in the 1950s.

We feel that it is a creepy and dysfunctional family indeed that is willing to embrace media celebrities as members, yet that is how we see our local media marketed again and again, complete with mock family portraits and now, even, childhood photos for the community album. Perhaps, though, there is something admirable, if appalling, about the media’s complete willingness to include even themselves in their orgy of exploitation –call it the Lobster Boy Syndrome, with the recent Diana Pierce story as Exhibit A.

We also recognize that the local Alternative media is now "alternative" only in the most literal sense of the word. With its horrible earnestness, grimly predictable ideology, and obvious deep concern, it remains as strident as the average 16 year-old Humanities class liberal. One of the obvious failures of the Alt. Mentality –from the print media to public radio in all its forms to the lowest levels of zine culture—is its undying hipster faith that diversity, hipper-than-thou obscurity, and contrary attitude alone can make it interesting. One crucial point that the local alternative press has never seemed to properly grasp is that perhaps chief among the mainstream media’s failings is that it is neither a) funny, nor b) passionate, two characteristics which are too often sadly lacking in the alternative press as well.

We recognize that in the grind of deadlines, focus group pressures, ratings, and increased outsider control from gigantic media corporations, the media has struggled to retain its guts, its vision, its integrity, and that it is losing that battle every day.

So what, then, does CURSOR aim to do? What is its mission? Well, for starters, to examine and recognize the public’s wide complicity in the media’s crimes of absurdity, inanity, and pandering, to take a look at our ongoing obsession with the cult of media personality (See: Budd Rugg, Media Parasite). We aim to provide links –both local and national—to other sites of integrity and fresh insight, sites which exhibit a depth of news analysis or criticism or scorn that is too often missing in this market; to offer colorful and truly alternative takes on the stories of the day as well as on the continually eroding media ethics and standards nationwide; to bring together in one place some of the freshest and funniest writing currently available on the web.

And, finally, absolutely, we intend to afflict the comfortable and…well, afflict the comfortable.

Please weigh in and let us know what you think. Your ideas, opinions, and suggestions are always welcome here at CURSOR.