Thursday, March 25, 2010

Media: Patterns that Follow

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I've spent a surprisingly large proportion of my life getting up at twenty-four minutes after the hour. That's right, not at half past, but twenty-four minutes past the hour. Why? CBS Radio distributes "The Osgood File," a two-minute feature from Charles Osgood, at twenty-five minutes after the hour, four times a day (actually, seven times if the four times zones are accounted for, but there are only four new Osgood Files each day). So, I would set my clock radio to come on just before Osgood would start.

Once upon a time, most radio stations ran the features right off the network feed, so pretty much everywhere I went in the Pacific Northwest, I could listen to Osgood at the same time (on KIRO from Seattle, KXL from Portland, KREW-Sunnyside in much of central Washington, and KXLY from Spokane). By the time I went away to college, that had started to change, with stations delaying the feature up to fifteen minutes. KCBS in San Francisco (which originally delayed Osgood to half past) was running it about thirty-six minutes after the hour, so during college I could sleep in another six minutes and just wake up at half past to the headlines. Yet, when I moved to Boston, WBZ was still running the feed live, so I was back to my old routine. I'm obviously listening to the CBC (and getting up at standard times) in Canada, and commercial radio has so degraded that if I ever move back, I probably won't be listening, so getting up at twenty-four after the hour is probably an artifact of my past now.

Yet, other media traditions are still following me around. My parents purchased a gift subscription to the Christian Science Monitor for me in high school, and it might have been the best gift they ever gave me. The problem with the Monitor is that it was and is not hand-delivered, but comes by the postal service. That wasn't so bad when I lived in suburban Seattle or even eastern Washington state, where service was pretty predictable (if slow), but it was terrible on-campus at Stanford University. On occasion, an issue would come two weeks after the issue date, and I would regularly receive the Monday and Tuesday papers on Thursday (if I was lucky, Wednesday would also arrive the same day). I got to know my local postmaster exceptionally well in this era, as we had a near-constant "publication watch" in progress to track what was happening which never really solved the problem.

The United States Postal Service largely cleaned up its act in the late 1990's in terms of service reliability, but it was lost on me as about the same time I decided the Boston Globe was the correct paper to receive while I lived in that metropolitan area. Yet, I did miss the forward-looking, in-depth world news of the Monitor, so when I moved to the world city of Toronto, I decided that the weekly "International" edition of the Monitor should be back on my reading list.

The only problem is that Canada Post hasn't gone through a phase of becoming more reliable. In fact, it seems to be getting steadily worse. Today, on March 25th, I finally received the March 15th Christian Science Monitor--along with the one dated the 22nd. If I thought it would do any good, I'd request a publication watch. However, if it didn't do accomplish anything down south, it's even less likely to do so here. Some life patterns just won't go away.

Of course, I still listen to Charles Osgood--off a podcast. Maybe it's time to get a iPad and finally receive the Monitor when it is released.

No comments: