What’s Black and White

and red all over?  A newspaper.  That’s an old joke that was popular when I was a child using a play on the word red/read.  At that time, newspapers were important to everyone.  That was your way to get not only caught up on local news but also to get in depth coverage of national news.  Reporters would look into a story investigating all aspects and write their findings with as little prejudice as possible.  You always had to have at least two sources before you could publish a piece.  There was great pride in working for a newspaper and reporters were respected community members.

When the newspapers in New York City went on strike, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, mayor of the city from 1934 – 1945, went on the radio and read the Dick Tracy comic strip for that Sunday so no one would miss that episode.  The daily paper was so important to people then that M*A*S*H devoted one episode to their vital importance to the military overseas.  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, reporters for the venerable Washington Post,  gained national fame due to their diligent reporting from 1972 – 1976  of the Watergate affair which toppled the Nixon presidency.  It was a time when the daily paper and its journalists reported on facts without any agenda except to provide their readers with news deemed important for that day.

Yellow journalism was something that I was taught in my classes to avoid.  That was left to the tabloids with their huge banner headlines of misleading character.  They were filled with scandal and half true, half fabricated stories and were a joke in the newspaper world with no sense of authenticity.  Today, the lines are blurred between yellow journalists and main street journalists with the former at times leading with breaking news. 

It is sad to see the state of newspapers today.  I quit reading them years ago when they seemed to be filled with nothing but salacious stories and gave me no more information than I could find out by watching the television news reports.  In depth coverage was gone as is in-depth coverage of local issues.  Today’s paper can’t be called a bipartisan news report since there always seems to be bias infiltrated into the story. 

But my heart broke weeks ago when I really looked at our hometown paper which my aunt reads daily.  This standard bearer for our state is a mere shadow of its former self.  It’s width has shrunk by at least 6 inches and my aunt mourns the loss of all the ad inserts on Sunday which she studied for an hour or more every week.  Everything is shorter now and in depth coverage is a thing of the past.  Our once proud industry is now a skeleton barely supporting its own weight.

 This is a loss for all of us and, yes, I recognize that we can all get news in thousands of different ways today.  But newspapers were important and provided a continuity to our daily lives.  What was can never be again, but as we would mourn the loss of a family member or friend, let us mourn the loss of something that was a vital, living thing and is now dying.  Reporters are still out there, but the coverage isn’t.

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One Response to What’s Black and White

  1. Leo says:

    When I was at State, one of my poli-sci classes talked about media and politics. One of the subjects we studied was the substantial shifts in the newspaper industry over the past 100 or more years. Really analyzing it, you could see those shifts and the attitude of the journalists. I found it really interesting to study it and find this latest shift in journalism equally as intriguing.

    It is sad to see newspapers lose what they had become, but hopefully the will find themselves once again in some form or another.

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