(Roughly) Daily

“In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever”*…

 

Hand-wringing over the state of journalism– especially the state of print journalism– is a feature of our times. As Will Mari reminds us, the profession has been here before…

In the late 1950s, TV news was on the rise, as more and more Americans (nearly 90 percent of them, in fact) were buying sets. As broadcasters competed with print journalists for breaking news, writers for newspapers and magazines were rethinking their role as storytellers and interpreters.

Sigma Delta Chi, later known as the Society of Professional Journalists, recognized this. The Quill, its magazine for reporters and editors, confronted the occupation’s many challenges. From embracing discussions of technological change, to discussing journalistic failings (like how to handle the next Sen. Joe McCarthy) and encouraging its members to mentor younger journalists, the organization and others like it played a big part in the professionalization of the field.

Cartoons in The Quill poked fun at newsroom life. Occupational humor, often of the gallows variety, was (and remains) a critical way for journalists to think about their profession. Cartoons also appeared in abundance in other trade publications, such as in the American Newspaper Guild’s Guild Reporter and Editor & Publisher. The former championed labor, and the latter presented publishers’ point of view.

The Quill walked a middle path. Its cartoons, some unsigned and others bylined, depict the inhabitants of the newsroom going about their daily business. The humor had a light, earnestly innocent feel. Sigma Delta Chi’s members also included broadcast journalists, but the cartoons were drawn mostly from the perspective of print reporters…

* Oscar Wilde

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As we parse the new(s) paradigms, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005, in Woody Creek, Colorado, that the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson were “blasted into the sky over his farm [there], carried by red, blue and silver fireworks in front of a 153-foot monument that Mr. Thompson, the writer and avatar of “gonzo” journalism, designed himself almost 30 years ago.”

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Written by LW

August 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

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