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Today's word on journalism

Monday, October 22, 2007

Can’t Scare the Old Gray Lady:

"Good journalism for an intelligent general audience is hard. And we’re really good at it. Taking on The Times is not as easy as waving a credit card and proclaiming yourself 'fair and balanced. . . .' We have every reason to feel confident that we can hold our own if [Rupert] Murdoch decides to build The Journal beyond its business-reader base. In all the Murdoch parlor-gaming, I don’t hear anyone suggesting that he would attempt to match the depth of our coverage in culture, science, education, health, religion, sports, lifestyle, etc., etc. Not to mention business coverage that even devout Journal readers find they can’t afford to miss."

-- Bill Keller, editor, New York Times, on Murdoch’s promised Wall Street Journal challenge to Times national dominance, Oct. 16, 2007

Hello, India? My name is Jen and I'm a Travelocity addict. . . . Where's my connection?

By Jen Beasley

Septemer 17, 2007 | I've been doing it again. The Travelocity.

Returning to Logan two weeks ago from my latest Because-I-Can trip to Sweden and Denmark, I swore I'd changed. I'd had my fun, climbed my churches, strolled my fjords, drank more than my fair share of beer in the delicious company of interesting foreign men, and it was finally time to introduce my nose to the grindstone. No more fare searching. No more forsaking homework for road trips. I was going to repent, go to school, go to work, repeat, all without wanting to kill myself. Really! I was not going to listen to the wanderlust anymore.

But I'm with Lindsay Lohan. Entering rehab immediately after a bender just makes you realize how much rehab sucks.

That isn't to say Logan's isn't nice in its way. One bar, a couple of grocery stores, a handful of theaters, 257 churches. But other than my frequent fast drives through Logan's wild, vagabond canyon, there is nothing here to quell my incessant compulsion to keep moving. It's not even a characteristic unique to Logan, but a trouble I have encountered my whole life.

Which is why my fingers are back to typing faster than my address bar can register the letters. Or at least they were until my Internet stopped working Sunday, and I was forced to go cold turkey.

Did the fare to Lima go down? Cincinnati? Belarus? I don't know! And it's killing me.

So, like all addicts, acting out of sheer desperation, I called tech support. Tech support is a sort of trip in itself. You get to wander wildly all over the phone keypad. First you press 3 because you're having a problem. Then, you press 1 because you're not interested in learning about the new, exciting (and invariably crappy) products from Belkin. Then 4 because you're frustrated and punched the wrong key, and then finally, a chance combination of numbers--probably the mathematical equation for time travel--because pushing 4 elicited a contemptuous "Not a valid selection" from the robot on the other end, and you attempted to strangle your phone.

Which means you have to start all over again, dialing 1! 3! 2!, completing the battery of button presses, until you finally reach the tech support waiting room, where crackly Rachmaninoff is playing so loudly the dog upstairs begins to howl. And you wait, and wait, and wait, for at least four spirited movements, until finally you are allowed to reach your destination.

Welcome to India.

I know the route better than Marco Polo knew the Silk Road. I did it countless times. I would punch the numbers, listen to ridiculously uncathartic classical music, then speak to outsourced customer service representatives. Then I'd ask them to repeat themselves because I didn't understand the technical jargon veiled beneath the impenetrable accent. So they'd repeat themselves, and I'd do what they said, and nothing would happen.

The language barrier is not entirely their fault. I'm a technology idiot, and am unlikely to understand technical jargon in any form, whether spoken in perfect American English, or written down, or acted out through interpretive dance. But it certainly wasn't very user friendly, and coupled with the fact that nobody seemed to be able to tell me anything that actually fixed the Internet, and therefore my Travelocity, it was downright maddening. By the time I was speaking with "Derrick," my third techie with a new and improved Americanized name for customer convenience, I was exceedingly crabby. Withdrawals, I guess. I decided to make snotty small talk.

Me: "How's the weather in India?"

Derrick: "Hot actually. It is the rainy season here, but it did not rain today so it is very hot."

Hmph. I couldn't help but cheer up a little. It was a small fix of the Somewhere Else I was craving. I congenially jumped through the next lengthy and fruitless series of hoops.

Ultimately, though he was friendly and made a good weather man, Derrick was completely useless when it came to reestablishing my wireless connectivity. After about 30 minutes of fumbling and goose chasing, making my daily total now three hours of wasted time, Derrick gave up and vowed a "Level 2 Tech Support Expert" would call me later at a time of my choosing. Apparently that guy would know what to do. Or pawn me off on someone else who might.

But my past experiences sitting around waiting for someone to call gave me little faith in the process, and I was unsurprised when a representative from Belkin's India HQ called me not at the agreed-upon time, but at 7 a.m., right before my Pilates class. I could not take the call, and they got off the hook with an insincere apologetic message.

So now I guess it's back to the old switchboard, and I'll have to call again. But if that doesn't work, I'm vowing to fly to Mumbai to make them fix the problem themselves. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. I do. And I swear I'll get a trip out of it yet.


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