Depressing Press News

Palm Beach Post house ad 10-04-2015Flipping over to Page 2A in my old newspaper, The Palm Beach Post, while munching on a bagel loaded with cream cheese I almost knocked over my cup of coffee, when this house ad jumped out at me. The paper was bragging that it “has more than 100+ journalists reporting the news for you every day in print and online.”

Reminds me of the Good Ole Days

Palm Beach Post - America's Fastest Growing Major Daily Newspaper 09-30-1988Back almost exactly 27 years ago, on September 30, 1988, we were handing out mugs that crowed that we were “America’s Fastest Growing Major Daily Newspaper.” Now, to be honest, I think there should have been some asterisks surrounding that claim, but it was mostly true. We were growing staff, circulation and revenue like there was no tomorrow.

The treasurer said, “We could park a wheelbarrow out in front of the building and people would throw money in it.” (In fairness, in 2008, he added, “One day we went out and the wheelbarrow was empty. The next day when we checked, the wheelbarrow was gone.”)

WE had bragging rights

The 2015 Post is proud that it has 100+ journalists.

Here’s the editorial makeup of the paper on August 28, 2007, a year before the first 300-person purge took place and before our production and circulation departments were outsourced. Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc., had 1,414 employees in all departments at that time.

The newsroom had 317 employees in 16 departments. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 401 News Admin – 12
  • 402 Metro – 62
  • 403 News Desk – 28
  • 404 Sports – 42
  • 405 Features – 33
  • 406 Business – 16
  • 407 Community News – 22
  • 408 Wash Buro – 1
  • 409 Library – 11
  • 410 Graphics – 10
  • 412 Opinion – 12
  • 414 Media – 1
  • 415 Arts & Entertainment – 10
  • 416 State – 19
  • 417 Web – 13
  • 419 Photo – 25

We might have had some fat

PBNI 20-Year Club members 08-17-2008We might have had some fat in 2007, but I can’t believe that you can cut two-thirds of your news-Hoovering folks with centuries of institutional knowledge, then brag about your “more than 100+ journalists” in an advertisement. (When I posted this to Facebook, someone pointed out that “more than 100+” is redundant. Maybe that’s what happens when you get rid of copy editors.)

Click on the photo to read my name as part of the Class of 1972.

Ford Vs. Carter, 1976

720 1976-10-20 Missourian Ford-Carter AdThe hall closet was a catchall for seldom-worn coats, bottles of booze given Dad by vendors at Christmas (some have unbroken seals dating back to 1965) and general domestic detritus. On the top shelf was a stack of yellowing newspapers. Almost every time I came home, Mother would say, “Why don’t you go through those papers and either take them with you or throw them out.”

Every time, I’d answer, “Next time.”

A treasure trove of history

“Next time” finally came the other day. I discovered they were newspapers that had headlines of most of the major stories between the mid-1950s and the early 1970s. Space launches, Martin Luther King assassination and the riots in its aftermath, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Robert F. Kennedy assassination. Some were from The Southeast Missourian and The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, but there were also covers from papers all over the country.

It dawned on me that in the days before the Internet, newspapers would subscribe to a couple dozen publications, most of which never got read. I must have gone through the stacks and grabbed those significant headlines. Or, maybe I snatched them up from Metro News on Broadway.

I liked Carter, but voted for Ford

Let me go on record as saying that I believe that Jimmy Carter was an honorable man who got dealt a bad deck of cards during his term. I would have voted for him except for two things:

  1. I admired the way Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, sparing the country months of turmoil, even though he had to have known that he was committing political suicide. He took one for the country.
  2. I covered Gerald Ford when he came to South Florida on an uncharacteristically cold, rainy day. He rode in an open car waving at crowds and stopping to shake hands from time to time the whole length of Palm Beach County. I leapfrogged from spot to spot to catch him at several vantage points, and thought to myself (while wet and shivering), “This guy REALLY wants this job.”

A gentle attack ad

Jimmy Carter’s announcement that he has cancer made this Oct. 20, 1976, ad particularly memorable for me.

Carter made the mistake of being honest in a Playboy interview: Christ said, “I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.” I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do—and I have done it—and God forgives me for it. But that doesn’t mean that I condemn someone who not only looks on a woman with lust but who leaves his wife and shacks up with somebody out of wedlock. Christ says, don’t consider yourself better than someone else because one guy screws a whole bunch of women while the other guy is loyal to his wife. The guy who’s loyal to his wife ought not to be condescending or proud because of the relative degree of sinfulness.

The religious right, predictably, went nutso and condemned one of the most honorable and Christian presidents we’ve had for simply telling the truth.

I have to grudgingly respect this ad and its quiet message, though. It is factual, understated and effective.

Still, I’m sure Playboy circulation skyrocketed for that issue: I mean, you had to run right out to by a copy “to read the interview,” right?

What Would You Save?

Abandoned house - St Mary Mo c 1966Running across these photos of an abandoned house in St. Mary from around 1966 got me to thinking about something.

For a long time, I carried around  a list of stories I’d like to do. Eventually, I came to realize that stories found me, I didn’t go looking for them, so I set the list aside.

Still, the idea that stayed with me the longest was something about the early settlers who headed out west in their wagon trains. When they started out, they carried everything including the kitchen sink. As the trail got steeper and food and water supplies got low, they had to lighten the load by throwing out possessions they thought were least important. What was the last “nonessential” to go out the back, I wondered?

What would you save?

Abandoned house - St Mary Mo c 1966Before I got around to asking strangers to let me to photograph them with the three things they would save from their home if it caught fire, I decided to pose the question to friends and coworkers. Turned out most folks were very predictable: family; pets, then photographs, were what would be carried out.

When it became obvious that most of the photos would look alike, I abandoned the project.

What did they take?

Abandoned house - St Mary Mo c 1966Still, when I look through this open window, I have to wonder what did the owners take from those opened drawers, and why did the random beads, buttons and juice squeezer not make the cut? (As always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.)

So, what would YOU carry out of your burning house? Are you going to be like most folks and say “Family, pets and scrapbooks?”


Making Math Difficult

June collection Southeast Missourian collection receiptWhen I started out as a substitute paper carrier making a whopping $2.50 a week, The Missourian cost 30 cents a week, making math easy when I went to collect on Saturdays.

We learned the times-three tables early in grade school, so figuring out 2 x .30 = .60, 3 x .30 = 90, and a month’s payment was $1.20 was no challenge.

Then the paper bumped up to 35 cents a week, making math much more difficult. I was not sorry to see the next increase take it to a much more easily multiplied 40 cents a week.

The receipts were issued in pads that were held in collection books like this one.

I hope this fixes it

I’ve been getting messages from folks saying that the email notification they are getting of new content has been broken. They were right. My best guess is that an automatic security update busticated something. Kid Matt deleted the email program and reinstalled it, so this is a test to see if it’s working again.

How much is it today?

I have a digital subscription to The Missourian, but I was curious how much home delivery costs today for someone living in Cape. What cost $1.40 in 1959 goes for $16.95 today.