Back in the day, I was a familiar figure at Sioux Gateway Airport. My days at Gateway involved some travel and I always made sure my trips originated from Sioux City. Those were the pre-9/11 days. Very little hassle getting on board the plane and great service once you were airborne. The concept of paying a fee to check your suitcase was nothing more than a gleam in the mind of an airline executive.
The flying experience is a whole new ballgame these days. I empathize with those who travel for a living. It’s no fun.
During my travel days, I accumulated a ton of frequent-flier miles on Northwest Airlines – at the time one of two airlines serving Sioux Gateway. The miles had some value back then. It was easy to score an upgrade once you got to Minneapolis to catch your connecting flight. But the deregulation of the airline industry changed all that. The number of air carriers shrunk as mergers and consolidations whittled a dozen or so airlines down to a handful of mega-carriers. In this new era of air travel, those miles are essentially worthless. Think you’re going to trade seat 30B for 3B? As they say out East – 'fugetaboutit'.
But let’s give some credit to the airlines for coming up with another way for folks like me to use those piles of miles. They call it Miles for Mags. “Mags” as in “magazines." Four thousand miles turns into a two-year subscription to Time magazine. Golf nuts can sign up for two years of Golf Magazine for just five thousand miles. So about 25,000 miles later, my mailbox is stuffed to capacity with Time, Fortune, Health, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, People, Sports Illustrated for Kids and Forbes. Other than Time (which I enjoy reading), these other periodicals find their way to the waiting room of Sergeant Bluff Smiles where my daughter’s patients can enjoy their contents before they land in the dental chair of Dr. Laura.
This motherlode of magazines takes me back to the days when periodicals played a significant role in the way news was disseminated. Being a news geek, I always looked forward to the day the mailman would deliver my magazines. U.S. News and World Report tilted a tad to the right and I appreciated that perspective. Newsweek leaned to the left and better reflected my political beliefs. Plus, Newsweek had the best photo journalists in the business. In fact, I used to save all the old issues of Newsweek in the hope that someday they would be valuable. Regrettably, my mom took matters in her own hands and sent all my old magazines, along with my 1950 and 1960 baseball card collection and my sister’s wedding dress, to a watery grave in the old cistern behind our house in Nokomis, Ill. The mental image of my mom chucking a fortune down that cistern brings big-boy tears to me 50 years later.
Those of you who share my vintage will be able to relate to the glory days of newspapers and magazines. Other than watching Chet Huntley and David Brinkley at 6 p.m. every weekday night, we depended on newspapers and magazines to deliver the news to us and it was not all that uncommon to spend the evening thumbing through the pages of the daily newspaper or the latest color-laden issue of Newsweek. No Hannity. No Maddow. No Wolf. No bull.
So, what’s taken the place of the written word? One glance at my iPhone reveals the answer. My favorite app is Twitter. And yes, I follow Donald Trump. And yes, I disagree with 100 percent of what he tweets. I don’t follow Steve King for a reason. So, this plea to my Sioux City Journal friends: Stop with the King retweets. You’re making me crazy.
Then there’s the CNN app. I’ve found that CNN is my new go-to spot for national news. CNN has found that the best place to be is in the middle. The Fox folks still think Barack Obama was born in Kenya and Donald Trump is Ronald Reagan reincarnated. Meanwhile, MSNBC stakes out positions that make Bernie Sanders look like a Southern conservative. Somewhere between those two viewpoints is the truth.
How you get your news is irrelevant. What is important is that you are paying attention to what’s going on in the world around you. The importance of an informed electorate has never been more obvious.
Next week: Steve Warnstadt
Jim Wharton, of Sioux City, is a former member of the Sioux City Council and a former mayor of Sioux City. He and his wife, Beverly, have one daughter, Dr. Laura Giese, and three grandchildren.