WOSTER: 'Real News, Part Two'
If you think about it, the breathless flashes and updates available online these days aren't so different in concept from the extra editions put out by newspapers 100 or 150 years ago.
I have always found the idea of an extra edition of a print newspaper romantic. I felt — still feel, I suppose — the same way about the BULLETIN we sometimes sent when I worked for The Associated Press. Like the extra edition, a bulletin meant something pretty out-of-the-ordinary was happening in the world.
So many information sources these days label anything and everything urgent. It's really hard to know what to get excited over. When I worked for the AP, some of the old-timers talked about "a deadline a minute.'' Back then, that meant any time of night or day, real, significant news might happen. When it did, the AP would be reporting it to the public. That was a far cry from some of the breaking news items on way too many online platforms today.
Maybe that's why, when I think of the old newspaper extra edition, I remember a time when most folks bought and read the newspaper cover to cover. Newspapers in those days carried serious information. They were real. Through the decades, they have largely remained serious and real, one of the few trustable sources of information you can find, whether you still read a print paper or get your news from a newspaper's online sites.
A week ago, I wrote about real reporters. I guess you could call this essay "Real News, Part Two.'' Nobody asked me to write it. I just think it matters.
It started when I was young, a time when families read the daily paper in the evening, every evening. And when earth-shaking news broke, people would rush to the news vendor for the extra edition, and they'd read that. They didn't necessarily believe everything they read, but they read everything they could, and they thought about what they were reading.
The newspapers of the day, on rare occasions of momentous news, published extras, special editions delivered outside the normal press run times. Wars, assassinations and the like qualified for extra editions.
You've seen movies in which a youngster rushes down the street with a bag of newspapers over his shoulder. He waves a paper in the air and shouts "Extra. Extra. Read all about it.'' I love those scenes.
I knew a man once who did just that as a young boy. His name was Robert B. Hipple, and for nearly 85 years of his life he worked as a newspaper person for the daily paper in Pierre. He retired at age 90 after half a century as publisher. But his first job was as a newspaper carrier when his dad owned the paper. His first extra edition was in 1906 when a massive earthquake killed 3,000 people and destroyed much of San Francisco.
Hipple, not quite six years old at the time, remembered carrying the earthquake extra edition of the paper through the streets of the city, shouting, "Extra, extra. Earthquake rocks San Francisco.'' It was, Hipple said, a glorious time to be young and in the newspaper business.
I've been in the newspaper business one way or another since 1966, the summer I worked at the weekly Chamberlain Register. That, too, was a glorious time to be in the newspaper business. It remained a glorious business through my four decades of full-time reporting, and it remains so today, as I contribute a couple of columns a week to the pages of The Daily Republic.
Newspapers have their struggles and challenges. The good ones are adapting and will continue to adapt. I'm convinced they remain the most trusted sources of information available anywhere, especially the local newspapers. They strive each day to produce meaningful, factual news, and they publicly fix their mistakes. They blend immediacy (through both print and online editions) with depth and breadth of coverage. That's their strength.
The printed "extra'' may have given way to online "breaking'' news, but the newspaper is still the place to get real news. I fervently hope that in one form or another, it always will be so.