Opinion » Editorial

Writers on Strike



Unless a settlement of the Hollywood writers' strike emerges soon, you can expect to be watching reruns of many of your favorite television shows, starting this week.

The first casualties will be the late-night comedy shows, such as The Daily Show, Late Night With David Letterman, and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Those programs need fresh humorous takes on news events every day. Without writers coming up with new jokes, those shows are dead in the water.

At a time when writing is often considered by corporate media to be merely "content" to be monetized, it's not surprising to see writers standing up and demanding their share of the pie. Without them, after all, there is no content. As funny as Jon Stewart might be, he's nothing without a script, and those scripts come from a roomful of funny folks thinking up jokes and one-liners. As wonderful as that Macy's sale may be, no one's going to pick up the paper to read that full-page ad unless there's something compelling to read.

It's one of the ironies of this Internet and electronic age that writers — practitioners of one of mankind's oldest forms of communication — have become more important than perhaps ever before.

Websites and television shows — and, yes, newspapers and magazines — have a never-ending need for material, content that provokes and amuses and challenges readers and viewers. No one goes to a website or a publication just to read the ads. The story is still everything. And the storytellers are beginning to realize it.

Football and ADA

From the Detroit News comes word that the University of Michigan has run afoul of the U.S. Department of Education for violating wheelchair access rules at its famous 109,000-seat football stadium.

The issue is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — the same issue that confronts Memphis at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

According to the newspaper, the "scathing report" came eight years after an investigation was launched by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The so-called Big House was built in 1927 and has been expanded and renovated several times.

Are there similarities between the Big House and Our House? Michigan's stadium has 88 wheelchair seats, far fewer than the 1 percent, roughly 1,000, that ADA compliance requires. But the university says it has accommodated every ticket holder who has required an accessible seat. The other U of M up north stands to lose millions of dollars in financial aid to students, according to the newspaper report.

Let's hope the federal government takes a reasonable view of the Liberty Bowl. Michigan's stadium is almost always sold out. The Liberty Bowl is almost always about half full. There would appear to be enough accessible seats or places to add them if there are not.

But ADA compliance should not be an excuse for tearing down a pretty good stadium and building a new one at taxpayer expense. How many people in wheelchairs are being turned away because of lack of access or seating? When that question is answered and the University of Memphis starts filling the house and tickets become scarce, it will be easier to take the worst-case view of ADA compliance seriously.

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