Backstory: News with Whimsy ; Newspapers Shouldn't Be Afraid to Have a Little Fun

By Holahan, David | The Christian Science Monitor, December 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

Backstory: News with Whimsy ; Newspapers Shouldn't Be Afraid to Have a Little Fun


Holahan, David, The Christian Science Monitor


Let me explain what's wrong with newspapers, which are losing circulation faster than the Arctic is molting ice. I know something about newspapers. I was a paperboy. Later, but not by much, I owned one, which several friends and I started from scratch. Then we bought a second weekly to create the smallest media chain in the Western Hemisphere.

We were country journalists first and business people second. When in doubt, we'd hire another 22-year-old reporter to cover the next one-horse hamlet. Sometimes I'd come into the office in the morning and find a fledgling scribe asleep on a layout table, using a roll of paper towels for a pillow. The local Masons rented the floor above us, and once a week, while we were trying to satisfy the public's right to know, they'd be stomping about as if they were practicing Riverdance.

The Gazette and The Compass of southeastern Connecticut carried the obligatory oh-so-serious stuff: stories on sonorous school board meetings or nasty debates about septic lagoons. A ruddy-faced dairy farmer sat on the board, and he'd be asleep before the minutes from the last meeting were regurgitated. We liked him so we never reported that. Our most popular feature, however, was the police blotter. Don't let readers tell you they don't feast on bad news, alleged or otherwise.

We published scathing editorials, too, written with the fervor and wisdom that less than three decades on earth can impart. The looming midnight deadline inspired us to unimaginable heights of purple prose.

We had fun, both in and out of print. Where is it written that a newspaper must be terminally serious? Take your modern editorial page and those adjacent op-ed rants - please! You'd think that the human race had two weeks to live, and that humor was heresy. …

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