OP-ED: THE IDLE AMERICAN: With head held high

Published 5:07 am Friday, October 23, 2020

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Don Newbury

Mike Wilson, editor of the Dallas Morning News since 2015, has resigned the position, and the almost six-year tenure probably has seemed much longer.

He was charged with what likely is an inevitability, that of converting most delivery of news from “the printed page” to digital transmission. Somehow, he has maintained excellence in both. There’s no way the assignment could have been “cushy.”

His comments to colleagues expressed well his own deep feelings as well as those of contemporaries across the land: “Running a newspaper today is like swimming across a hot fudge river. You gorge yourself on the decadent pleasure of it, but you have to kick like h… to get to the other side.” He added that he’s “full,” as well as “tired.”

I’ve long maintained that the Morning News is one of the nation’s best newspapers. Much of the credit goes to Wilson. He emphasized the privilege of working “in the shadow of the Rock of Truth.” He was referencing the three-story inscription about journalism fairness and integrity chiseled above the entrance to the paper’s longtime headquarters, now replicated in the lobby of its current Commerce Street office.

In a final comment to his associates, he said, “…And always know that what you do is essential and worth the swim.”

I–and other graybeards–may never fully accept or utilize digital news delivery. Chris Liebrum, a valued friend who has accepted the fact that digital news is here to stay, opted to renew his DMN subscription for digital only.

Uh oh. He listened to the spiel about subscription options; there are more of them than there are flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Each one, he claims, involves a subscription for one of several print edition deliveries in order to receive news digitally.

He opted to receive a hard copy of Sunday editions.

The transaction completed, he then indicated that he would be on vacation every Sunday of the upcoming subscription period, so there would be no need to throw his newspaper–ever.

Some well-known publications aren’t pushing readers to digital reading, they’re shoving! A good example is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It still offers print editions on Sunday, but for weekday subscribers, there’s digital delivery only.

Here’s the hook: To make sure weekday readers have means to view the content, the ADG is handing out free iPads with each subscription.

Before weekday print publications ceased, subscribers to digital had pulled alongside with about 100,000 subscribers in each camp. Weekenders prefer print, however, ten to one.

While lamenting, I seize this opportunity to “profess a pet peeve.” As newspaper editorial staffs have been steadily trimmed for the past decade or so, it is clear to see that proofreaders were among the first to go.

I’m hoarse from yelling about so many folks thinking the nouns “lecterns” and “podiums” can be used interchangeably.  Now, I’m beating similar drums concerning “amount” and “number.”

One of my most valued mentors says “amount” is the term used for inanimate objects that can’t be counted, such as pecans, rainfall or courage, but for animate objects, such as cats or people, she says to use “number.” In an above-the-fold frontpage story in a Metroplex newspaper recently, a “small amount of firms” was referenced. (Suggestion: When all else fails, verbally use both words. Usually, one of them sounds far better than the other.)

Finally, here’s a tale from long ago concerning two small weekly newspapers in a village that could barely afford one. Each editor tried his/her best to come up with a fresh, “catchy” headline.

One sleepy January afternoon at press time, nothing newsworthy had happened. Frantically, the editor turned out a quick headline: ST. VALENTINE’S DAY FALLS ON FEBRUARY 14 THIS YEAR.

Sadly, news was in short supply the next week, too, so the editor responded to the other’s Valentine’s Day “pronouncement” thusly: IF THAT’S NEWS, POET GEOFFREY CHAUCER ‘SCOOPED’ ‘EM BY NEARLY SIX CENTURIES.


Dr. Newbury is a long-time public speaker and university president who writes weekly.  Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury.