Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


April 23, 2014

When 'breaking news' was fragile


Such reminds me of college years when I edited a country weekly newspaper during summers. I was editor/reporter/folder/ad guy/driver, uh, with “certain other duties as may be assigned by the publisher.” (The word “folder” meant literally folding the newspapers — all 500 of them — and getting them to the post office on time. All this for minimum wage of a buck an hour, a figure my dad thought might have been excessive.)

With a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline, I prayed hard that no one would die that day, at least no one prominent in the community. If one did, I was in luck — I thought — if he were out of town. At such times, photographs did not accompany obituaries.

Running “pics” was a hassle. It meant driving 10 miles to Brownwood, standing in line at the daily Bulletin’s engraving machine and forking over $5 — a process that blew a minimum of four hours — on “press day” yet.

But if the publisher happened to be present, he’d insist on running a photo, whether or not he had the five dollars or I could spare the four hours. I learned much from this community leader who regarded signing a check as a promise to pay, sometimes sooner, often later. Yet, he was the most generous person I’ve ever known, giving everyone their due.

Today, we are all in the “news business” if we choose to be. And traditional media are adapting, hopefully without forgetting the importance of “getting it right.”

Should we break the news to young folk that tweets and posts have been around for close to a century? In newspapers, they are called “personals” by editors and “fillers” by ink-stained folks in the back shop — the ones minding “p’s,” “q’s” and all the other letters.

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