Friday, April 8, 2011

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.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The gremlins that haunted newspapers

The Argus Observes
By Don Lynch
From the Feb. 26, 1953 Argus-Observer

The Oregonian does it too. And so does the Idaho Statesman.

The Oregonian had a classic bobble in Monday’s late edition. Next day the Portland newspaper ran the following editorial explaining its error:


“The gremlins that haunt newspaper plants, transposing lines and words sometimes in extremely embarrassing fashion, hit the jackpot when they slipped a cut of a Victorian architectural monstrosity into The Oregonian’s front page layout in Monday’s late editions.

“The caption said the dwelling, in Salem, would be rented by Governor and Mrs. Paul Patterson after the legislative session ends. Actually the picture was that of the governor’s mansion at Sacramento, Cal.

“We are not trying here to correct the confusion caused by the above mentioned gremlins. The news department is doing its best in that line.

“We wish, however, to put in a word for Governor Earl Warren and his family of California. Many Oregonians were horrified to think that the Pattersons would have to live in such a house and we were inclined to agree with them. But the Warrens have resided in it, besides putting up with a lot of other irritations peculiar to California. The Warrens are even a finer family than we had thought. Imagine smiling so pleasantly , as they all do, while having to live like that!”

This incident reminds us here at the Argus-Observer of the time we mixed up the cutlines between a state official and a visiting concert violinist. And since we didn’t know either guy it was weeks before we knew of the mistake.

The lines most apt to become mixed between pictures here are the captions with wedding pictures. When we have two or three pictures of newly wedded couples, it requires constant watching to keep from mixing either the overlines for the lines under the pictures.

The Boise Statesman has its troubles too. In an edition a week ago, the lead from one story carried this headline deck:

Democrat Agriculture Record
Ohioan Sees Election Defeat
If Republicans Don’t Better

Now the top line could be could be removed to the bottom or the bottom line could be moved to the top and the head would make sense. But as sit ran it was confusing.

In an edition of the Evening Statesman last week, the editorial page cartoon ran upside down.

We certainly have our troubles at the Argus-Observer as the readers much know but probably no more than most other newspapers our size. Just last week I was about to reprimand the news editor because the headline differed with the story in numbers of persons singing and attending at the Snake River Valley music clinic.

Later I was glad I didn’t for the Freshmen won a regional basketball tournament in Boise and I wrote a headline calling them Sophmores.

It’s never funny to the editor when these things happen to his own paper.

But my it’s funny when they happen to the Oregonian or the Statesman.