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This slogan strikes me as mildly amusing

Of course, it might be because I am adding on “…isn't it?” when I read that.


One of the challenges facing newspapers


Though, admittedly, this sort of thing is not an everyday concern.

Two “It’s a Wonderful Life” questions

1. Ever tuck an envelope full of cash into a newspaper and then put the paper down and forget it?

We all remember when Uncle Billy did just that. Sure, he might have been a stupid, silly old fool. But let he who has never done something like that cast the first stone.

And didn't Janet Leigh stick some cash in a paper in her room at the Bates Motel in “Psycho”? Sure, the circumstances in which she became separated from the money were a little different. But once again a newspaper proved to be an imperfect currency conveyance.

2. If you were to come up with a variation on “…old building and loan pal” based on your work or social life, what would it be?

“Old Q6 pal”?

“Old Spokane Club pal”?

“Old Manito Park pal”? 

Newspaper readers can be a total pain

I should know. I have been one for a long time.

When I was about 10, I was a big Willie Mays fan. That made me a San Francisco Giants fan.

My family lived nowhere near California at the time. But we did subscribe to two daily newspapers. And I was a devoted reader of the sports sections.

One day one of the papers ran a promotional box on an inside sports page. It said something like “Need to know the score?” and provided a phone number. You could call and get the latest results right off the teletype. 

I took note of this. In fact, I regarded it as the potential answer to one of life's major problems — how to get Giants scores in a timely manner.

I suppose I needn't remind you that the media landscape was different in that era.

Anyway, about that phone number. You would think that if a newspaper was going to offer to be your one-call info source, the people there would have considered that readers might take them up on it. But apparently the number published in the paper was just a phone on the sports copy desk. And so, when a certain kid in the suburbs started blitzing the paper with requests for Giants updates, they weren't ready for it.

Oh, it started off OK. I dialed the number and asked my question. And some guy at the paper provided me with an in-progress score.

But by the time I had called maybe four times in half an hour, my relationship with the ink-stained wretch answering the phone had become somewhat strained.

I cannot recall exactly what that 1960s journalist said to me. Nor can I claim to remember if I actually responded with “Sheesh, what a grouch!”

But in that moment I realized something: Not everyone at newspapers really enjoys interacting with readers.

I'm not sure when that promo with the phone number stopped appearing. I think it was pretty soon after one young baseball fan learned the score.   

Which will disappear first?


1. Bank drive-thru lanes (replaced by total conversion to online banking).


2. People who pull up to a bank drive-thru and are reminded of the old days of newspapering when copy editors used pneumatic tubes to send marked-up articles and headline specs to the typesetters on another floor.

One thing the print newspaper offers

You might have noticed that a lot of people enjoy expressing disdain.

These folks can't really blame anyone but themselves for their own web-surfing choices. But the daily newspaper offers a golden opportunity to register displeasure and engage in recreational complaining.

They can start their sputtering or mumbling with the front page: “Who cares about any of this?”

And from there it's page after page of potential targets for disdain. What could be more fun?

I'll have to see if our marketing folks can come up with a slogan reflecting this reader service.

Clark Kent’s performance evaluation

“Kent consistently fails to inform the desk of what he's working on, where he has been, where he is going and why in hell we are supposed to trust his stories when no one has ever seen him taking notes.”


Just wondering

When you are looking at an out-of-town newspaper, do you always check to see if Spokane is in the list of cities' temperatures on the weather page?  

Something I’ve always wanted to say

Ducked into the little cafe in the STA Plaza to pick up an out-of-town paper.

A guy standing right in front of the display rack was looking at a copy of the publication I sought. That left one other copy.

But the copy still on display was missing a couple of sections.

So I looked at the guy standing there and said something I've always wanted to say. With a work history devoid of retail experience, it just had not come up.

Until this morning.

“You gonna buy that?”

Another depiction of newspaper people

I think yesterday's was actually less ridiculous.


Even some who hate us are quite loyal

I wonder who has gone the most years without missing a day of the S-R. 


Stamping on “stomping”

One of my friends on the copy desk sent me a good-natured note Friday night long after I had gone home for the day.

She mentioned that my use of “stomping grounds” in my column for Tuesday — don't get me started on my deadlines — had prompted debate among a few nightside editors.

She wrote: “A senior member of the copy desk claims the phrase is 'stamping grounds' which the dictionary agrees with but the majority of copy editors did not.”

I cherish those kinds of discussions. And I'm being totally serious when I say that I love associating with people who care about words.

Report: Most Papers Gone In 5 Years

“Most print newspapers will be gone in five years,” says a new report from the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future. The forecast by center director Jeffrey I. Cole, based on 10 years of studies, says, “America is at a major digital turning point … We believe that the only print newspapers that will survive will be at the extremes of the medium — the largest and the smallest.” The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal will likely survive, along with some local weeklies, Cole writes/Jeff Sonderman, L.A. Weekly. More here. (AP file photo for illustrative purposes: Final edition of the King County Journal rolls off the presses just after midnight in Kent, Wash. Sunday, Jan. 21, 2007)

Question: Are you among those who believe digital media will almost completely supplant print media in five to 10 years? How will that affect your life, if it comes to pass?

Birdcage liner syndrome

As you are no doubt aware, there are people who have a tendency to read only about subjects they have previously identified as personal interests.

Many of these individuals have turned their backs on the traditional print newspaper. That is their right, of course.

Apparently they aren't attracted to the possibility of turning a page and discovering a small surprise — a story with a picture perhaps, about something totally off their radar. And nothing I could say about how that's different from web surfing would change their minds.

But I wonder about these people as Christmas draws near.

What do they do when receiving packages from friends and family in distant states? When opening newsprint-stuffed boxes containing gifts, I never fail to find something interesting on those wadded-up pages from out-of-town papers.

But maybe that's just me.


Some things change, some do not


I always enjoy depictions of newspapering in old movies and TV shows.

That's why I was watching “Leave It to Beaver” the other day. 

Wally and the Beav wanted a new bike. The one they had their eye on cost more than $50, which was a lot of dough back then. This led to Ward giving them a money-doesn't-grow-on-trees talk.

So the boys went out and landed a job delivering newspapers after school.

Naturally, antic confusion ensued.

And after well-intentioned Ward and June unwittingly contributed to Wally and the Beaver getting fired by the Courier Sun, Ward went down to the paper to try to get their jobs back.

The guy he dealt with in the circulation deparment was sort of annoying. But no more so than our man Mr. Cleaver when Ward pulled the oldest squeeze-play in the book.

When things get a little testy, Ward tells the guy that his company buys a lot of advertising in the newspaper. He clearly insinuates that said advertising could be yanked if he, Ward, doesn't get what he wants.

The circulation department guy doesn't totally cave. But here's what he should have said.

“Well, I assume your company buys ads because your bosses know that advertising in the newspaper works. Do you mean to tell me that they would be OK with you threatening to interfere with that basic part of their business plan simply so your kids can get their paper routes back?”

All-time least creative newspaper editor

At my first reporting job in Flagstaff, Ariz., I worked with a guy whose previous newspaper gig had been in sun-baked Yuma, Ariz.

He used to tell stories about a sports editor there who meant well but lacked a certain spark. One tale stayed with me.

Like in many businesses, newspaper people employ a fair amount of jargon. For intance, we refer to the text beneath a photo as a cutline. To the rest of the world, that would be a caption.

A small-format paper is called a tabloid or tab. Even traditionally configured newspapers such as the S-R often use a tab format for special sections devoted to topics such as golf or fishing. And, in-house, newsroom folks working on those annual or quarterly sections might refer to the “golf tab” or “fishing tab.”

Of course, on the front page of these sections, the finished-product label or main headline presented to readers would be something like “Loving the Links” or “Where They're Biting '08.”

Well, apparently there came a day where that editor in Yuma couldn't be bothered to try for something fancy. So here's the name he came up with for a special section on one of America's longtime participant sports: “Bowling Tab.”

Newspaper front pages in comic books

Wouldn't it be fun to take a look at a bunch of newspaper headlines as depicted in Silver Age comic books?

I thought I had come upon an original idea for online inquiry here. But it turns out others had beat me to it. Well, at least that made finding pictures pretty easy.




College sports, coaches’ salaries, etc.

If you don't count a couple of angry letters to the editor written as a teenager in Vermont, I started my journalism career at an Arizona newspaper called the Daily Sun. Despite the name, it came out in the afternoon. At least it did then.

There was a veteran reporter on the staff who did a lot of good stuff. But the thing that made him a legend in certain circles was submitting his own work to the Pulitzer committee and subsequently referring to himself as “nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.”

A few years later, I was working as a news reporter at The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. Despite the name, it came out in the morning.

In 1981 I sat between two guys, Clark Hallas and Bob Lowe, who actually did win a Pulitzer for their work exposing various misdeeds connected to University of Arizona athletics.

I wrote the story about their award. And I still have a commemorative glass with that front page emblazoned on it. (I refer to it as my “Pulitzer” story, but no one in 30 years has ever thought that was funny.)

Anyway, I don't think the paper sold many of those glasses. You see, the reporting Lowe and Hallas did was not popular in the community. Car dealers pulled their advertising from the paper. News sources refused to speak to us. Et cetera.

I remember it changed the way I viewed Tucson a bit. Sure there was a vibrant progressive element in the city. But there were also a lot of college-sports booster/lunkheads.

In my experience, these people can be found everywhere big-time college sports is played. They like to think they have their priorities straight and that they should not be lumped in with knuckledragging sports zealots in places like Alabama and Oklahoma. But if someone criticizes their beloved “program,” well, there's hell to pay.

So I smiled when I saw the story about the coaches being the best-paid employees of the state of Washington.

The Northwest is great in a lot of ways. But when it comes to taking college sports way too seriously, we have our head up our ass. Just like the rest of the country.  

Newspapering in a previous century

If you enjoyed watching reporters and copy editors get into fights, newsrooms at evening papers were the place to be once upon a time.

At morning newspapers, many of the reporters have already gone home by the time the copy desk actually takes a look at stories turned in earlier in the day. But at evening papers, just about everyone was in the newsroom as the deadlines approached.

Long ago, I worked on the copy desk at a p.m. paper that has since folded.

One day, a reporter covering a high-profile murder trial turned in a story in which he quoted a witness saying something like “He told me he was going to kill that mother.”

That last word was not being used in the parental sense. And the judge or defense counsel probably threw a flag on the play.

But the reporter wanted to capture the flavor of how it was actually uttered in court. So he opted for a phonetic version of the quote. And when the story, having sailed through the useless city desk, arrived at the copy desk, that passage read “He told me he was going to kill that mutah.”

Immediately one of my copy desk colleagues suggested that it ought to be “mutha.” But the reporter stood his ground, stupidly insisting that it remain “mutah.”

For a moment, it appeared that they were going to come to blows. But as I recall, it was the managing editor who ruled in favor of “mutha.”

He could have saved his breath. When it came out of the composing room, it showed up as “mutah.” And that's how it appeared in the first edition.

For quite some time after that, certain staffers at the El Paso Herald-Post took delight in finding occasions to feign umbrage and call one another a “mutah.”   

I gotcher endorsement right here

When inclined to grumble about one of The Spokesman-Review's editorial positions or political endorsements, I sometimes think of Ed.

Ed was the sports editor at the small newspaper where I started my so-called career. A proud University of Missouri grad, he was a bit of a nitwit in several ways. But he was no dumb jock. He was interested in current events.

So when our predictably non-progressive publisher would write an editorial that upset Ed, the seething sports editor didn't just shrug it off. Oh, no. He would fuss and fume. And in a bit of bluster that I'll now chalk up to his relative youth, he would say something truly moronic.

 “I've got a good mind to quit this job and then start writing letters to the editor about our editorials,” he would say.

I couldn't tell you how many times he said that. But it was quite a few.

I left that paper before he did, so I don't know if he ever made good on his ridiculous threat. I suspect he did not.

Still, as crazy and immature as Ed's impotent revenge scenario might have been, almost anyone who has worked for a newspaper could identify with the sentiment.

Some readers realize that very few members of a newspaper's staff have anything to do with editorials and endorsements. But not all readers understand that.

Moreover, there are readers who have little patience with the “I had nothing to do with it” explanation. They want to know how anyone with a modicum of self-respect could work at place that supported such a repugnant candidate.

It's a fair question. I guess you just have to realize something about newspapers.

You know what would have happened if Ed had resigned and then written a letter to the editor taking the newspaper to task for its shortsighted editorial stands?

We would have printed it.

Feel free to send me your list of other businesses with a long tradition of offering their harshest critics a public forum.

Forecast calls for mild frustration

When reading print editions of newspapers published in other states, I always look to see if Spokane is in the list of cities on the weather page.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn't.

I'm always pleased by the former, mildly disappointed by the latter.

But one thing that annoys me is when the Lilac City is listed as “Spokane, WA” while many other cities of similar modest size and iffy prominence are not saddled with the state identifier.

I once exchanged emails about  that exact scenario with an editor at The Washington Post. (They didn't change their wrongheaded policy.)

Anyway, I invite you to note which papers do or don't include us when you're out on the road this summer. And please let me know what you find.

Sure, I could look online. But website high/low temperature lists can be way longer than those in the print paper.

It's in the print newspaper that you see how some editor answered his or her own question: “Spokane. Hmmmm. Do any of our readers care about Spokane?”

Or “Spokane, WA,” as the case may be.  

Days of Future Passed

No doubt you would observe it more often in cities where a higher percentage of commuters rely on mass transit and can read on their way to work.

But every once in a while, you see it in Spokane: A guy who knows how to walk with a newspaper tucked under one arm. It's a classic look.

Let's call it effortless style.

It's certainly not a strut. And it is not really any sort of statement about the trend arrows of information technology. It's just a subtle little sign that the pedestrian in question has something on his mind.

The are other ways to suggest that, of course. But I can't think of many that are so utterly unforced, so unpretentious.

Some things change. Some don't.

Fire starter for the future?

OUTDOOR NEWS — Linsey, a student from Eastern Washington University, has been job-shadowing me today, and she’s been asking a lot of good questions about the Outdoors beat and about newspapers in general.

“Will there be newspapers around in 10 years?” she asked as we were wrapping up her day in the day in the life of an outdoor writer.

“I don’t know the answer,” I told her honestly.  “But it seems as though there will always be a need for fire starter, fish wrap and bird cage liner.”

“There’s probably an ap for that,” she said.