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April Fool's no laughing matter

You or someone you know is jobless, newly poor, flat broke, homeless or worse.

The government is spending our great-great-grandchildren's last dime. Where once there was drought, there now are floods. Two wars are going on and you either hate the new president or you hate all the people who hate the new president.

On top of all that, your NCAA bracket is busted.

You could use a good laugh, right?

At least that's what a lot of news organizations thought this week as many gleefully took part in the annual stupidity of publishing phony news stories on April Fool's Day.

I've got news for you fellow, ahem, journalists: Now is not the time.

In case you haven't noticed, newspapers are in trouble. Between the perception of bias, actual bias, the Internet, radio, TV, blogs and the economic whirlpool that continues to suck advertising dollars away, you'd think journalists would be spending their time doing more useful things, like trying to increase their credibility, not lessen it.

But nope, just like they learned to do way back when they worked on their high school paper, many journalists ran stories about, among other things, the Pennsylvania governor using stimulus money to hire clowns to cheer people up, the 54-year-old German chancellor being pregnant and, in an irony of ironies - and I love irony - the Guardian in the UK announced it would stop publishing and only post reports to Twitter, at least for a short time before switching to telepathy.

Folks, we have a perfectly good satirical newspaper in the world called The Onion.

What we also have is Sun-Times Media joining Tribune, Star Tribune, Journal Register and Philadelphia Newspapers in filing for bankruptcy protection in the past few months.

And what we don't have is a Rocky Mountain News. Or a Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Yep, (in my best deadpan voice) they're folding up every day.

We in the media are accused of being biased, of not reporting the "important" news, of making sure if it bleeds, it leads, and other criticism, some deserved and some not.

So with all the battles we face in the industry right now, is it really the time to be running stories about zombies and space aliens?

You know what I wanted to know Wednesday?

I wanted an explanation the average person could understand of all the bailout bills. I wanted the word "trillion" put in a context I can understand. I wanted someone with access to the information to do more than just parrot back to me what the White House and Congress says.

I wanted to know the real reasons why the auto industry is dying.

I wanted to know why gas is up when oil is down. I wanted to know why other countries are suddenly proposing going to one global currency. What is this about the Chinese not wanting to buy our debt and the shaky ground the dollar stands on?

That's what journalists needed to be offering Wednesday.

Instead, from some, we got clowns and spoofs to go along with the usual drivel about "American Idol" and Miley Cyrus.

Some mighty important things are happening in the world right now, and the people need to be told. Some won't listen, but many are hungry for that information and need a faithful, reliable source to give it to them, not Mad Magazine.

Lighten up, you say, it was just one day.

The newspaper industry can't afford to lighten up. We have to be looking every day for ways to be useful to the world.

Otherwise, the joke will be on us.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.