Beware, or I'll eat you alive.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Even with Spring-like weather sometime one can get sad news, but at least the sun shine tries to make things less sad.

But on the news this evening, word came out that the San Francisco Chronicle was letting go more than 100 employees, some of the top notch reporters were taking a buy-out. The Editor of the Chronicle said that even with the squeeze of the Internet and with people blogging, it cannot replace the hard work that occurs in the newsroom. But I wonder how will news reporting continue, the Chronicle will still have an on line presence, but how will this develop.

I Love My Newspaper!

I despair at the loss of the newspaper print media, for me there is nothing more enjoyable than to stretch out and read the newspaper while sipping my coffee or tea, scanning and reading articles, many which would have bearing on my work, and some just for the general informational value, it is our way of “gossiping over the fence” but within the comfort of one’s own living room or kitchen table.

But even our own locally printed hometown newspapers do not cover everything, there is so much more going on than “all the news fit to print” and I’ve found in our little portion of the world that we still rely on “word of mouth”, not reliable but better than nothing. Now the Internet is taking over electronically bringing to you the news without the loss of any trees, but you lose something in the process.

When I had to briefly suspend my newspaper subscription because of major work being done to my home, I found that without the newspaper I lost a daily ritual, I found that I hated the 30 second to 2 minute sound bite of the Television, with their cutesy weather person, and glib comments from the sportscaster (sorry sports fans). I wanted the news, and given the timing of most news reports it was impossible to cram all the news needed into nothing more than a half hour show. I didn’t want my hard news that way, its fine for last minute updates and general overviews but I want details, DETAILS!

I want the crackle, crumple of the printed newspaper; I want to see the immediate picture taken by the photographer. I want to circle and clip those articles to refer to when I need it. You lose that with the electronic media, and the burning eye strain from looking at a computer monitor doesn’t help either.

Even then there is still no saving of trees, if the article in question is important I will still print it out—more paper, more trees lost, not a saving.

But inch by inch we are slowly moving to the Internet media of the future, I wonder though how much of it will be correct, and how often will they print a correction or retraction, I’m also fed up with the inane comments left by readers that dwindle down to just word fights, and leave or offer nothing constructive. It only convinces me that the intelligence level of some Internet readers are just a few points above moron. Not all Internet readers but a few.

Alright my Web Log Friends, I know that I’m being harsh and that the world is comprised of people of varying educational, intelligence and life experience levels and I should be forgiving. There are very bright and intelligent people out there I know, and I have met them and interacted with them here on the Internet and they have given me much food for thought for which I am very thankful for and I've read them that have sent in letters to the Editor that are very worthwhile, but sometimes---sometimes... (Gerrrrr)

But----I love my newspaper!!! ***sigh***

Emily Bingham wrote in the April 6, 2009 issue of Newsweek, “Digital Dad Versus the Dinosaurs”. Her father ran The Courier Journal of Louisville, Ky. from 1971 to 1986, her great-grandfather bought the paper during World War I. But it was her father, Barry Bingham Jr. that predicted in 1981 that within 25 years “most of what we read will be transmitted into our homes or offices electronically,” in the face of the nay-sayers, and as one can see if you are reading this post, that it has come true.

Bingham ‘believed that newspapers could save themselves from extinction---but only if they adapted early and intelligently to new technology.’

And as one can see he was right. But---I like reading the newspaper in the comfort of my easy chair with feet raised, listening to music, and taking my time, and avoiding straining my eyes against the glare of the computer monitor.

I became a “news junkie” at an early age, the adage “Knowledge is Power” I found to be very true.

When I wrote my papers for college I had a habit of finishing my papers with the symbol -30- at bottom under my final reference index. I was lucky that my teachers seemed to understand this and was never demerited for it.

Alright where did I learn this? In High School I was desperate to get into a class that was interesting, there was a journalism class to put out the High School Paper so I leaped at that. I was mostly a correspondent writing reviews of books for students to read, or special events that occurred, interviewing students and teachers if the student won an award or an up coming dance, I never did “hard news”, mostly fluff stuff, even though I always asked my teacher Mr. Lewis, to take on a “hard news” story. Sports were left to the boys, which was fine with me (Again, sorry sports fans).

But Mr. Lewis kept me to fluff stuff; I think if I had done stories of greater significance, instead of going into finance I would have gone into journalism. I also think it was a ‘personal prejudice’ on my teacher’s part, or maybe he was afraid of his female students getting hurt, I could forgive him if that was his thinking, but now I’ll never know.

But I, as well as the others always signed -30- at the end. One day I asked him why -30- and he said that "-30-" has been used to signify "the end" or "over and out" since the Civil War when telegraphers tapped "XXX" to end transmissions. "XXX" is the Roman numeral for 30.

He wasn't sure how and when "XXX" transformed into "-30-" in modern printing usage.
But he said that it helped when a journalist typed -30- or ### or XXX at the end of their story since articles were printed out in columns, the -30- needed to be there so the person laying out the pages knew where to cut.

According to ‘Wikipedia’ this notation is still used to indicate the end of a press release and can frequently be found in formal corporate documents posted on websites and delivered electronically or via print.

Jack Webb of “Dragnet” fame did a movie called “30” that came out in 1959. Although of improbable plot it did convey a sense of drama of what it takes to get a newspaper out, and would even make a person smile. There are others like Bogart’s “Deadline U.S.A.” or total comedy fluff like “His Gal Friday”, even Clark Gable’s “Teacher’s Pet”.

But then you see films that deal with “Watergate” or “The Zodiac Killer”, Paul Newman in “Absence of Malice” again you wonder about Hollywood’s presentation of the news media.

So where is this all leading to?

I’m not sure.

I do know that in my personal dealings in person, on the Internet, and when I write my posts, I am always subconsciously aware of the basics---the who, what, where, when and why.

Mr. Lewis drilled that into us “The 5 W’s” but another thing he drilled is “Be sure of your facts, present them in a non-biased way, let the reader make their own decisions, and don’t let the story drop, if new information comes forward to correct or augment any previous conditions (he preferred the word ‘conditions’) follow up on that, and don’t be afraid to discover you’re wrong.”

One other thing he stressed is that “when it’s your own personal opinion, to own up to that and be generous enough to hear the other persons’ side. Don’t believe you’re always right, but don’t believe that the other person is also always right, you can both be wrong. Be a better person to admit your mistakes. But get to the “Truth”’

One day I asked him what is “Truth”? and he said “Truth lies at the bottom of a well, you’ve got to dig down into the muck, sludge, grime and slime to bring it up, clean it off and let it shine its light in the dark. And that still doesn’t get you off of making typos!”

I can still remember him, thin, stooped, grey thinning hair, he was a journalist for a long time before he started teaching, he smoked a lot, drank too, never married, one day he was at class drunk and instead of working on the paper he just started talking about his life, the ups and downs of it. We sat and listened, we knew he was drunk; one of the boys eventually went to get the vice-principal who was sympathetic. For 2 days Mr. Lewis wasn’t there, we had a substitute who really let us do the paper. When Mr. Lewis returned, he walked to the front of the class, apologized for his behavior and said that should be a lesson to all of us; he admitted he was an alcoholic and that he was going into treatment during the summer in the next month.

But he said that there was one thing that he noticed, we had things prepared, but didn’t go forward until his final approval. He asked us why. One of the students said “You’re the Editor; we couldn’t put the paper to bed until you signed off on it.”

He looked at us, stood straighter, took his jacket off and said “Alright let’s look everything over” We went over everything, that day he made us think and make decisions, then we put the paper to bed.

He didn’t stand stooped over after that, he didn’t drink, and we noticed his eyes weren’t so red. The next school year I saw him, he appeared in better health. I graduated at the end of that year, 5 years later I heard that he retired.

I just found out that Mr. Lewis passed away in his sleep a few years ago, I often think of him when I read the newspaper, I don’t know what he would have made of this new electronic media, not knowing what ‘devils’ drove him; maybe he would have been glad to not see this happening, or maybe he would have embraced it in some way and taught his students what evils to watch for using the electronic media.

One thing I do know, whether it’s print or electronic, remember the 5 W’s and get your facts right.

-30- Mr. Lewis

1 comment:

Fram said...

I really, really enjoyed this commentary, Diva. You are dead on.

I used to say only a few national dailies and some small, "home town-type" newspapers will survive, but I am no longer sure even those will. I've been getting used to the idea for some time. A couple of random comments:

I was one of those high school sports writers. That's where I started: "Led by the Fabulous Fram, our team clocked the bad boys last night." Nothing like being the reporter writing about yourself.

I sometimes still use "30" at the bottom of personal notes or emails, especially when I am writing to friends from newspapers where I previously worked.

I gave notice at work yesterday, planning for the summer and the future. It probably will be the last newspaper job I work, because there will be no more newspapers. It does not bother me, because I have left newspapers a few times in the past and jumped into new places and new times.

When I was in junior high school, the brother of a friend of mine came home after being discharged from the Army Airborne. I asked him if he had liked it, fully expecting him to say something to the effect that it had been great. His reply was, "It's a good place to be from." That sort of is my feeling about newspapers. But, like you, I will miss being able to read them.

Keep writing, girl.