New low standards!

Bee blow job: Media critic A.J. Liebling’s oft-quoted remark that the news we receive is dictated by the whims of downtown dry-goods merchants was originally meant to be comic exaggeration. Leave it to Bites’ friends over at The Sacramento Bee to take the comment literally. An above-the-fold, front-page story on new low prices at Raley’s supermarkets set a new gold standard when it comes to pandering to your favorite advertiser.

Now, don’t mistake Bites for a total purist. Occasional synchronicities between journalism and advertising are pretty much inevitable in any publication that accepts advertising. After all, both are reflections (or, more accurately, refractions) of a shared world out there, so if you’re writing about music, theater, film, etc., there are bound to be instances in which articles and ads concerning the same event will occur. But, come on now, a supermarket? New low prices?! On the front page?!!

For those who missed it, the Bee’s Wednesday, May 4, front-page exposé, titled “Grocer offers permanent markdowns,” was mind-numbing promotional fodder of the sort that even Team Scoopy’s business section would think twice about. Bites especially liked the handy info-graphic touting “New Raley’s prices” on Dannon Yogurt, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and many other fine products. It even included the Raley’s “Every Day Value Price” graphic found in the supermarket’s ad elsewhere in the paper—a full-page ad that announced the very same price breakthroughs.

“What we’re offering is fair, consistent prices every day,” Raley’s President Bill Coyne told Bee staff writer Jon Ortiz in the Pulitzer contender’s opening quote. At press time, Ortiz had yet to get back to Bites on his story, which—come to think of it—was probably a wise move. Somehow, Bites doubts this was the kind of thing they told him about back in journalism school.

Sidewalks first? Back when Bites was a lumberjack, he of course followed the timber-harvest regulations scrupulously, with due consideration for his fellow creatures. So, it was a sad day when the city of Sacramento had the trees cut down on 16th Street, because that’s where the family of poetry-loving barn owls used to live.

The moonstruck poets at Luna’s were wont to watch the bird’s acrobatics and listen to their poetry reviews, which usually came in the form of a low, raspy sound not unlike two pieces of metal in a sack.

There were two adults, nesting high in the pair of sycamores, right behind the billboard. They often flew in with fresh mice and rats gathered from the alleys of the neighborhood.

Their popularity may have been due to the fact that poets often go out and stare into the night sky for inspiration. Nothing like a couple of big white owls circling around a tree overhead to bring out the lyrical side in someone, especially when the owlets came out with them. It was a beautiful thing.

But the trees caused endless damage to the sidewalk, so they’ve been reduced to a couple of very large stumps.

With the price of real estate being what it is, Bites doubts the owls have been able to afford rents in downtown; they were last seen headed for the parkway.

The contender: OK, so it’s not as good as being an A-list guest for the likes of Jay Leno, but gubernatorial aspirant Phil Angelides is gradually making inroads into the national consciousness. Why, just last Friday, The Washington Post did a story on our fearless treasurer and his quest to topple Herr Governator. Angelides used the interview as an opportunity to promote his views on how to balance the budget on the backs of our states’ sadly beleaguered millionaires (cue violins here). But the Post devoted most of the piece to the fact that Angelides’ name once was featured as a one-off character in an episode of The Simpsons.

Angelides told the Post that his staff actually looked into the matter and learned that Simpsons writers “just liked the name” when they chose it for what so far has been a one-time character. In the land of The Simpsons, Phil Angelides holds the enviable position of vice president for calendars and fake IDs at Duff Beer. Come to think of it, politics being the way it is these days, it’s good to have something to fall back on.