Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Old Newspaper Talk

Under the front page of the 4 August 1897 Herald and Tribune (Jonesborough, Tenn) came the start of a paragraph for Cost of Food for Forty Niners:

If life was not all “cakes and ale” among the forty niners; if among the vast majority the menu was limited to “slap jacks,” “hard tack,” “coffee and beans,” occasionally diversified by an unfortunate jack rabbit or quail, whose misplaced confidence in mankind brought them too early to the pot of the hardy miners, neither was it entirely devoid of luxuries in living for those whose appetites were at a par with the financial ability to gratify them.

It's one sentence....you check it out closely.

In modern times, no editor would allow a reporter to write like this.  No college professor would accept as decent journalism.  No nightly news crew would lead into a story with this type of introduction.

Times have changed.

A front page in 1897 was a mountain of information that would be discussed far and wide in the local area.  News didn't have to concern the local town or the county, or for that matter...the state.  The woes and sorrows of a bunch of guys a thousand miles away....would have been excellent reading material.

Guys would have gathered at the local general store, or the barber shop....commenting that they'd heard about the fine food out in California or the menu selection for the Forty Niner folks.

The problem with modern journalists.....is simply that you don't have people who observe and report in precise words what they see.  The age of Hemingways and Steinbecks.....are long gone.  We end up with Larry who graduated from Duke with a degree in journalism, and fixated on slanting an item to fit the agenda.  Or you get Gus who graduated from Columbia University with a degree in journalism, and he spends his evenings chatting with folks who give him bits and pieces for a story next week on something.....that he knows mostly nothing about, and never questions the bit or pieces.

We are stuck.....in some marginal era of journalism.  And we've accepted that as normal.

No comments: