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What would happen if Marty did rule?

I tend to think that our locally generated columns are like little pebbles thrown into a long deep well. Most of the time we hear nary a “plink” or an echo from whatever we throw out for public consumption.

I certainly never considered that one of our local columnists, except the oft-quoted Phyllis Harper, could have what could be properly called a following or fan club. But fact is stranger than fiction as we learned several weeks ago when some students from Tupelo High School came to tour the Daily Journal.

It happened that some of the students were particularly interested in hanging out around the news department to catch a glimpse or even (gasp!) get an autograph from one of our better known, one might even say notorious, columnists.

It seems that this columnist has been unconsciously building a following among some of the Journal’s up-and-coming readers and a few were eager to express their appreciation of his work.

As one of the students succinctly and sincerely put it, “Marty rules.”

Now, there’s a thought to send shivers up and down your spine.

No one was more surprised by this revelation than Marty Russell himself who we suspect does most things unconsciously, even those things he does very well.

Reflecting on the student’s comment was enough to bring a smile to the faces of the denizens of the newsroom who each had their own idea of what the world would be like if Marty did, indeed, rule.

Baseball would quickly be replaced by football and beer tasting as the nation’s joint No. 1 pastime, with star gazing and cruising the Internet running a close second and third.

Maybe not a lot of work would get done under Emperor Marty’s rule, but we’d all be more relaxed and contemplative for sure.

In fact, with all the vitriol being flung back and forth by the well-heeled and ill-spoken men who presume to want to rule us this election year, the idea of Marty at the controls begins to have its own kind of crazy appeal.

As a newspaper person I am well schooled in the argument that the shallowness of American political debate is all television’s fault. Print journalists for a long time argued that since a well reasoned (and well mannered) discussion of issues doesn’t make for good spectacle, TV journalists would rather focus on the flashy quips, simple slogans, hints of scandal and outright insults that grab people’s attention and get their blood boiling.

But now I think it’s more and more our fault as well. The more newspapers compete for the ever-narrowing segment of time that you the people are willing to dedicate to personal news gathering, the more we all pander to the same lowest common denominator “interests” of the public.

Is it any wonder that voters are so disenchanted not only with their government officials, but with the news media as well? Intelligent discussion and compromise is boring. Quick fixes are in vogue along with “Who’s sleeping with whom?”

And so it goes. The daily message see-saws between fear and fluff, anger and prurience. The national news diet is deficient of clearly defined issues and ideas for solutions. Basically, not much on the plate is useful, only instantly gratifying. News candy.

Is it any wonder that a room full of more than half-cynical reporters should be strangely inspired and elated that some young people would choose one of their number to admire?

Yeah … I could get into this new world view where the angry, empty-headed demagogues are unseated by a guy whose main worry is keeping the squirrels out of his attic.

Let Marty rule.

Jane Hill is a Daily Journal staff writer.

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