Sunday, April 29, 2012

How newspapers and journalism have changed since 1960

The dust jacket of 1960's "The Real Book About Journalism" features an attractive, exciting illustration about the world of newspapering. Rocket ships. Baseball games. Huge fires. Sinking ships.1

But it's also clear from this illustration how much has changed in the world of newspapering in the past five decades. For example:
  • Nowadays, the serious-looking man would be using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs, e-mail alerts and text messages to convey his serious news to the public.
  • Nowadays, we don't wear hats like that.
  • Nowadays, we don't have much of a space program to write about.
  • Nowadays, we don't use message spikes, because we're more prone to hurt ourselves.2
  • Nowadays, we have this thing called "female journalists."3
  • Nowadays, we're not allowed to smoke pipes in the newsroom.

1. The ship pictured on the dust jacket is clearly supposed to be Titanic. And it is clearly not an accurate representation of the doomed vessel. For starters, there are only two funnels, and Titanic had four funnels (three of which were operational and one of which was for show). Secondly, as my daughter Sarah points out, Titanic's funnels were not blue and red.

The book does include a short chapter about newspaper coverage of Titanic's sinking. Here's an excerpt:
"Alone among newspapers The New York Times dared to believe that the supposedly unsinkable and mighty Titanic had sunk, and it boldly printed this news before receiving official confirmation. It was Carr Van Anda, the exceptionally astute managing editor of the paper, who made the keen decision that later brought forth praise from rival publications and readers everywhere that has rarely -- if ever -- been equaled. ...

"...[W]ith confidence born of intuition and knowledge, he assumed responsibility without hestitation. He was convinced that the silence that had followed so swiftly and completely after the Titanic's S O S could only mean that the worst of all sea calamities had occurred and that the vessel was no longer afloat."
2. Which can lead to a lot of paperwork.
3. What's also sad is that this book about the male-dominated world of newspapering of a half-century ago was written by a woman. Author M.G. Bonner -- as the name appears on the front cover -- is Mary Graham Bonner, who wrote for magazines and spent nine years as a member of the features department at the Associated Press.

Here's another male-centric illustration from "The Real Book About Journalism":

1 comment:

  1. Maybe the sinking ship is a reference to the Andrea Dorea which sank off the coast of New England in the 50s after a collision with another ship?