Newspapers in 2009

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Having been out of pocket, as they say, for 60 days, I may be a bit dated as to the newspaper changes. I know that we will walk into the house and find piles of dead bugs, so we’ll start our homecoming by cleaning up.

The stacks of newspapers are next in line. I’ve been known to sleep for days after jetlag sets in, but believe me I’ll tackle The Citizen and the AJC between naps.

It was shortly before we left in July that the big paper debuted what it considers great improvements. If it takes another month, a year, I don’t care, just be assured the changes are to save money, not to launch a new look.

Last time I looked, the AJC was skimmed down and gussied up. A reader could not tell which cutline went with which face. There were lines in here and there between paragraphs and photos, and I swear I saw as many as three headlines stacked above a single story.

The AJC’s current managing editor is a dear friend who edited the late-1970s’ “This Week in Peachtree City,” so I don’t want to rant too much. I’ll keep on reading the AJC in hopes that they lose the extra ink.

All this leads to my occasional report to you about English and English-language newspapers abroad. Good papers, The Guardian and the International Herald Tribune (recently taken over by the New York Times.) The former is the bolder and sometimes coarser, while the latter has a certain élan.

They say that newspapers contain the first draft of history. I guess that’s why I’ve been interested in the papers since I was very young. First it was sitting in Daddy’s lap while he read the comics to me. Thank goodness there was a good long period before the paper started using color.

And when a paper had a regular column containing news from 50, 75, and 100 years previously it was magic to me. Imagine reporting a lumberyard fire. I would read all about it in the next morning’s headlines, and in a year or so, when a local vagrant was convicted of torching the place I wrote about it again.

Now, just think. It shows up in the 75th year paragraph, although you’d never tell it by looking at the site. An entrepreneurial developer bought the lot, cleared the rubble, and built the town’s first skyscraper.

Here are excerpts from the excerpts in a couple of last week’s Tribs:

Aug. 9, 1909. A chauffeur in Paris dropped off his boss at the front door of his office, then picked up three of his pals to go joy-riding – without permission. By the time the chauffeur and his cohorts were rounded up, the expensive car had received serious damage.

“Nothing is known exactly of what subsequently happened.” Shucks.

Sept. 4, 1909. A Boston surgeon completed building a new face for a 25-year-old who was “horribly burned in a firework explosion” in 1905. He now has a new forehead, new eyelids, new cheeks, a new nose, chin, and neck, and a new head of hair.

Don’t you wish you could see him? Did the hair “take?” Did his mother recognize him? How long did he live, and did his transplants outlive him?

Same date in 1909. A fierce tigress escaped her cage at the Quay in Marseilles, France, and bolted for a nearby wooden cabin which serves as a pilot office. The four men in the cabin drove the animal out using chairs. Only one man was severely scratched.

“The tigress left the Quay, walked along the parapet of the jetty and disappeared among the rocks.”

1959. Former president Harry Truman bestowed faint praise when he said “The Russians moon-shot was “a wonderful thing, if they did it.” He added that he never believes the Russians “until I can see it.”

Told that the Soviet Premier was coming to New York, Truman declined to speculate on whether Nikita Khrushchev likes him, and replied, “No, and I don’t care.” Mr. Truman was accompanied by his wife.

1934. The heads of the Wuertemberg Protestant Church and the Bavarian Church were refused admission to the central regime now being organized by the Nazis. Additionally, church ecclesiastical funds were confiscated by the Nazis.

The official reason was the necessity of “putting in order and safeguarding relations and Church property in Wuertemberg.”

Which of our reporters will still be quoted for another 50 years?

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