Sunday, September 6, 2009

As long as you know you are green, you continue to grow

Editor’s note: It was with this column that Don Lynch, editor and publisher of The Ontario Argus-Observer unveiled his personal front page column on Sept. 1, 1952. In it, over some five years, he frequently pulled back the covers on the town of Ontario, the spread-out farm and ranching communities of Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho as well as the newspaper he edited to serve the local residents.

The Argus Observes
By Don Lynch

This is the fifth anniversary of the consolidation of the Ontario Argus and the Eastern Oregon Observer into the Argus Observer. This consolidated newspaper has now served the Ontario area for five years as a semi-weekly. It has likely run more pages of newspaper per week, on the average, than any other one newspaper in a town the size of Ontario in the Pacific Northwest.

Some maturity must accrue to a newspaper on its fifth anniversary. Therefore this seems like a fitting occasion to begin a person column by the editor --- an idea we have been kicking around for a long time.

However, your editor doesn’t feel mature. Newsmen must guard against the feeling that they have arrived in professional competence.
The need for such humbleness on the part of working newsmen was well summarized by a sign that used hand above the sport desk in a Washington, D.C. newspaper. It read, “As long as you know you’re green you continue to grow, but when you’re ripe you start to get rotten.”

Columns like this one are standard features to be found in a great many newspapers these days. This trend stems in part from the tremendous readership acquired by syndicated news columns during the past generation. Success of the big columnist has caused editors to fee that a more personal touch would increase the readership of their own material.

For the past generation editors have bemoaned the fact that the readership of newspaper editorials has fallen off. In the days before movies, radio and television, frequently the best entertainment readily at hand was the writing of some old style fire-eating editor found on the editorial page of the local newspaper. Everyone read the editorials. Today editorials are read by a smaller percentage of newspaper subscribers --- sometimes referred to by editors as a “select” group.

The editor’s personal column represents an effort on the part of the editor to reach a larger general audience of readers. This was part of my reason for starting a column.

Another more important reason is the freedom and flexibility afforded by a column like this. Once can write easily in the first person about something he has read, a movie he has seen, an experience or idea he has had, all with an easy informality difficult to accomplish within the rather strict limitation of editorial style.

Selection of the name, “The Argus Observes,” is an obvious one taken from the name of the newspaper.

The name Argus comes from Greek mythology. Subsequent columns will deal with a variety of information and ideas. An early issue will tell the story of the Greek Argus.

Briefly the myth tells the story of a multi-eyed monster who was never supposed sleep so he was assigned important guard duty. But he was lulled into unconsciousness and failed at his job, much as some of today’s media.—The editor.)

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