There is a very sad and wistful column by legendary Los Angeles Times columnist Al Martinez.  In it, he goes back to the paper where he cut his teeth as a young journalist, the Oakland Tribune.  Like old newspapermen are wont to do, he waxes elegiac about the rip-roaring old two-fisted days of journalism yore.

And they often use sentences as cornball and overwritten as that last one.


Martinez has some good colorful anecdotes:

The afternoon Trib was big time back then, dominated by a legendary
city editor named Al Reck, a half-century later still the best editor
I’ve ever had. He rarely raised his voice, but when Al chewed you out,
quietly and in an almost civil manner, you learned something, and the
lesson stayed with you. There was Assistant Managing Editor Stanley
Norton too, a vision out of hell, who dragged a bad leg as he stomped
toward you, roaring like some kind of primeval swamp creature and
waving the story you’d just turned in — which he probably hated. Worst
of all, he yelled into your face and you caught the spray of his
usually pointless rage. Stanley died of tuberculosis, and for a
terrible few weeks we wondered if he was going to take the whole damned
spittle-sprayed staff with him.

In case you’re not getting it, the best way to read Al Martinez’s column is to put on your best Edward G. Robinson snarl.  Go ahead and practice it in your mind, if you’re not in a place to read out loud: “Now listen here, youse mugs, yeahhh. Johnny was in charge, but Johnny was weak, see?  Yeahhh… So now I’m in charge, yeahhh…” Go back and try that column in that voice.  Fits perfect, right?

But the core of the story is really not all that funny.

There’s still a Tribune, but it’s only a shadow of what it was and it isn’t at 13th and Franklin anymore.

owned by a company that calls itself the Bay Area Newspaper Group
(BANG, if you’re feeling whimsical), and the Trib at about 55,000
circulation is just one of a family of small newspapers, far from the
350,000-circulation giant that drove Hearst’s Post Enquirer out of town
in 1950. It’s housed out near the Oakland Coliseum.

He later goes on to note that the SF Chronicle is once again listing badly from the latest financial storm.  The stories that he tells about how robust journalism at newspapers was back then, can’t but make you feel as though something very very special, very vital, is draining away from this country.  The relentless, hard-charging reporters that followed up on stories, no matter where they led … I’m still trying to figure out what kind of place those guys have in the Brave New Media World.

Powered by ScribeFire.