Sunday, October 11, 2009

In the 50s: Trouble with that “Other Days” column

Editor’s Note: In October of 1953 my father wrote a column commemorating that year’s newspaper week by enunciating some of the ideals of a Journalistic Creed he’d come across. One stated ideal was that “no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman.” What with blogs and the Internet we’re way beyond honoring that principle today. But it was that basic idea that triggered his recounting of a pair of violations in which his reporters had indulged. The stories that slipped by on his watch in the 1950s might get killed today by the editors or publishers of the better community weeklies, if there are any of those left. Today, one hopes that respect means something in “small town” America,though the rancor in the letters column of today's Argus can raise questions whether that is true now in Ontario.

The Argus Observes

By Don Lynch

An excerpt from the October 5, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

I remember little violations of these (Journalistic Creed) principles that have been painfully embarrassing to me, although they have probably gone unnoticed by most readers. For instance:

Once when we had a new reporter writing the “In Other Days” column of notes from the files of former years, he picked up and retold some embarrassing crime stories long forgotten about local citizens who had since led exemplary lives.

On another occasion an eager reporter was publishing the lurid details of divorce complaints, which should be reported only in barest facts.

These were cruel, pointless stories. The person who has made a mistake and reformed should be granted the balm of public forgetfulness. Divorce items should only report the brief facts, so that the community knows the changing status of the individuals. No good is performed by broadcasting the miserable circumstances.

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