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Rumors of demise exaggerated

A phrase appears today above the vignette (or nameplate) on the front page of The Sun: CELEBRATING 175 YEARS.

The actual anniversary date is May 17, but the first celebration of the paper’s longevity began at midnight last night with sponsorship of the New Year’s fireworks display over the Inner Harbor. (I glimpsed some of it from a sixth-floor window.)

I bring this up mainly to mention that, despite the difficult times that newspapers are struggling through, despite the chortling of those predicting The Sun’s imminent demise,* we are still here.

The paper has survived difficulties before. It had to be extremely cautious during the Civil War, because though the readership was secesh, the federal authorities were given to locking up, without trial, people who held inconvenient views. (So little changes.) And Harold Williams’s history of the paper, published on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, points out that in the 1880s Baltimoreans were referring to The Sun as “a once-great paper.”

I know something about the paper’s greatness, having come on board during its most recent high-water mark, with all those foreign bureaux and the meaty Washington bureau and the hundreds crammed into the Calvert Street newsroom and the half-million papers sold one Sunday.

Truth be told, a great deal of money was spent foolishly when it was plentiful, and a great deal of what went into print was low-grade ore. (I kept copies. I teach an entire semester of editing with defective material supplied by The Sun’s professional journalists of the past quarter-century.)

For all that, for all its flaws and limitations, The Sun has been, and remains, a serious newspaper—not too proud, mind you, to amuse and entertain, but a paper intent on providing clear and accurate information about matters of importance and interest, trying to make sense of the world.

And as Anno Domini claims readers with the print habit, the electronic readership grows. That happens because we still provide something that readers want and need.

Not rash enough to predict that I will be on site as The Sun achieves its second century, I am rash enough to predict that when the sun dawns on May 17, 2037, some version of The Sun will also be shining.

 

*A curious gaggle of brassbound conservatives and hard-core end-of-print enthusiasts.

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 10:30 AM | | Comments (7)
        

Comments

I haven't watched "Downton Abbey," but a very nice epigraph for this post would be a line of Maggie Smith's that a colleague quoted:

"Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle-class."

Happy New Year. We'll be here.

We highly recommend "Downton Abbey," Prof. Season two is just about to start!

As for the paper edition of the Sun, I blame our delivery person for driving me to the website. Years ago I could pick up the paper at 6 a.m., check the weather, the headlines and my favorite features before heading off to work. Now it arrives closer to 7 (or later).

"foreign bureaux" ... delightful.

Your optimism about the paper's future is heartening.

Let us vow to reconvene on May 17, 2037 to toast the continued rising of the Sun. Happy New Year to you, Mr. McIntyre, and to the friends of You Don't Say!

Based on your recommendation, Dahlink, I have requested the Season 1 Downton Abbey dvd from the library.

Circulation - actually, the customer service aspect thereof - was the final straw for my subscription. My paper did not arrive before I left for work. When I called Circulation to complain, a truly needs-her-face-slapped-off-snotty woman told me that the paper is not late until 9 a.m. Oh, so the target market would be the retired and independently wealthy? At the time, I could get a copy from a nice man who stood in the early-morning cold in the center isle of Northern Parkway.

The point is, loust customer service will kill a business. The Sun needs to keep that in mind.

Eve, I hope you enjoy the DVD. Bear in mind that it is an entertainment, not great drama. In our opinion, the casting was superb, and the costumes and sets also gave pleasure.

I am totally with Eve on the customer service aspect of the print newspaper.

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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 john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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