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The more things change ...

As we observe the current crisis in American newspapering — some of us from the inside — it might be worth a moment to reflect on continuity as well as change. Here’s a passage that Fred Grimm wrote for the Miami Herald in 1989, which turned up in my notes over the weekend:

Pronouncing a big city newspaper in turmoil is about like declaring a bad day in Beirut. Newsrooms just naturally seethe.

Reporters are beleaguered, underpaid champions of truth and justice with the clamoring personalities of children. Editors are mean and generally ugly. Columnists have elephantine egos and are paid astounding salaries to reminisce about family pets and dead politicians.

Someone within this volatile formula can always be found who is critical, angry and threatening homicide, or, worse, to pack up his talent in three large Mayflower moving vans and defect to the opposition paper.

Most places don’t have that opposition paper any longer, though all newspapers have opposition from other media. Apart from that, things in the newsroom, as in Beirut, remain about what we have come to expect.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:21 AM | | Comments (1)


I agree ... but don't. The big difference to me is this: A disaffected newspaper copy editor nowadays has nowhere to go except outside the newspaper business. Lateral moves are rare now; upward moves are almost unheard of. Talented college students only get jobs because they're cheap and malleable.

None of that was true in 1989, which was my first year as a full-timer in newspapers.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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