The Changing Face of Newspapers
By Richard Mabey Jr.
There is a new trend in newspapers. Maybe it is just a Central Florida thing, I don’t know. The physical size of the daily newspapers has been cut down, both vertically and horizontally. Local feature stories no longer fill the inner guts of the local newspaper. You know, the kind of stuff like, “Jim Thompson Awarded American Legion Scholarship,” or “Suzie Wilmont Makes Dean’s List at Central State College,” or “Mabel Maguire Receives Church Award for 50 Years Serving as Sunday School Teacher.”
Instead, the inner guts of local newspapers are filled with tid-bits that you find on the Internet. Nothing wrong with that kind of thing. But the reason that editors use this stuff is because they have laid off so many of their writers, that they get this stuff on the Internet and fill their newspapers with it.
For example, “The ‘think music’ for Jeopardy’s final round was written by the show’s creator, Merv Griffin.” Or you might see a feature story based on this fact, “Kelsey Grammar sings and plays the piano for the theme song of Frasier.” Basically, you get the idea.
Now, compound that with the fact of age prejudice, and life gets tough for writers over the age of 55. Not to mention, those writers (like myself) closing in on 63.
Most publications today want their stories and articles “dumbed down.” You may not think this is the case, but if you compare a typical main stream magazine of 1965 with a magazine of today, it becomes very evident.
For the past few days I’ve had a bad case of writer’s block. In my book, it’s worse than getting the flu. My inspiration came today at about three o’clock in the afternoon when I was going through my collection of Silver Age (1960’s) Fantastic Four comic books. From about 1955 till the late 1970’s, Stan Lee wrote a comic book a day, seven days a week, for all that time. He was the creative force behind the entire Marvel Comics scene. He and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko put out scores of comic books each month. In the midst of flipping through an old, 1966 copy of Fantastic Four, I thought, “did Stan Lee ever get writer’s block?”
While housing developers are rapidly cutting down live oak trees that are hundreds of years old, the story goes unpublished because they take out big, full-page ads in the local dailies. The big theme parks in Orlando are laying off people, who have faithfully worked there for decades, while at the same time hiring young people to take their place.
The main reason they do this is because they can get inexperienced, young people to work for a much cheaper rate. Still, the story goes virtually unpublicized because the big theme parks take out big ads in local papers. Department stores and grocery stores are laying off full-time people (or cutting their hours to part-time status) and hiring new employees to be strictly part-time workers.
The role of the writer in our society is rapidly changing. Once, it was the job of the writer to inform the public of facts. Now, it seems it is the job of the writer to keep things light and bouncy, basically to entertain the reader.
Remember Lou Grant from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show? He got a spin-off drama after MTM was cancelled. He was a hard-nosed, truth-seeking editor! Lou Grant is a dinosaur. He was the typical daily newspaper editor of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I worked for several Lou Grant type of editors.
Today, Lou Grant has been replaced by soft, non-offensive, politically correct editors; who don’t want to rock the boat. And, certainly don’t want to offend anyone, even if the price paid is the golden truth in journalism.
I don’t normally get this upset. But I see what is happening to the local community daily newspaper and the small town weekly paper. It just gets my blood red hot!