Today’s entry is easy. I’ll just reference a fine piece by friend Sonny Rhodes of the UALR Journalism Department just published in the “Encyclopedia of Arkansas.” It is one of those works that both informs and makes you homesick for the past.
It’s called, “Newspapers during the Civil War,” and it started me thinking about an endangered aspect of modern life.
Newspapers face rough competition from the internet and cable news today. Some young folks don’t seem to know they exist. Further, the print media is hampered by severe restrictions that handicap their acceptance in today’s world.
The first of these is “fact checking.” It seems that newspapers still labor under the belief that news should be accurate. That’s not a “thorn in the side” of either the internet or some cable “news” empires.
The second is the archaic practice of placing editorials in a separate section and labeling them as such.
Of course there is also the troublesome fact that newspapers can’t constantly scan your reading habits and make advertisements appear on the page tailored to your specific interests.
Even with the existence of the 24-hour news cycle, I sometimes think folks were better informed when I was a kid. Both my father and Brenda’s parted ways with formal education at about the eighth grade. But they would no more have started their day without reading the newspaper than they would have started it without shaving.
Both were requirements, to them, of a civilized society.
I always sort of wanted to be a journalist. I had three minor handicaps though. (1) I was too timid. (2) By all accounts, I was too lazy. (3) I couldn’t write well enough. So I enjoy the vicarious enjoyment of hanging out and traveling with Sonny Rhodes, a charter member of “The Wandering Dudes.”
Well qualified, with an undergraduate degree from the University of Central Arkansas and a Master’s from Ole Miss, he reported for years with the majors and now teaches others how to do it.
Sometimes, on a long straight Delta road, he might tell you a fascinating tale about life as a young reporter, often provoking a laugh at his own expense. His stories always teach a good lesson for life, though, such as: don’t take rides with a crop duster after lunch at a Chinese restaurant, even to get a fantastic shot for a story. But … I can’t betray confidences so we’ll leave it at that.
Just read his piece. It’s fascinating.
“I believe that a young journalist, turned loose in large city, had more fun than any other man.”
- H. L. Mencken