VOL. 133 | NO. 144 | Friday, July 20, 2018
Old School, Brand New
NEWS IS DEAD, LONG LIVE LOCAL NEWS. My grandfather, J.P. Alley, was the editorial cartoonist for The Commercial Appeal, and he won a Pulitzer in the 1920s fighting the KKK as part of the paper’s editorial team.
His son and my uncle, Cal Alley, was also the editorial cartoonist for the CA. His brother-in-law and another uncle, Frank Ahlgren, was his boss and editor of the CA for about 100 years – it must have seemed that long to Uncle Cal who fought Uncle Frank almost daily to get his cartoons in the paper.
My mother-in-law, Pud Ballenger, was society editor for the CA in the 1930s and wrote a book on etiquette – another reason she probably wondered where Nora found me.
My generation saw brothers, cousins and children of cousins work for the CA. I worked there in college summers learning such skills as how to throw a big pair of scissors into a cardboard proof box across the room, acquiring such knowledge as how many agate lines in a column retail and how many picas in a column classified.
That paper is gone, and the promise its masthead used to make to Memphis as empty as the building on Union Avenue.
Local papers are threatened everywhere, their model as much history as all of the above, as outmoded as those agate lines and picas. Today’s morning paper here doesn’t have any of last night’s news because it had a deadline about dinnertime yesterday. Today’s morning paper was edited in Iowa and Nashville, printed in Jackson, Tennessee, proofread on Mars, and owned by people who don’t know Poplar from Briley Parkway or Kingston Pike. While you won’t get last night’s scores for the Tigers, Grizzlies or Redbirds, you’ll probably know what the Titans had for breakfast, how the Predators really feel about hot chicken, and Webb School’s chances next year.
But your local daily – your local daily – is about to debut. This fall, The Daily Memphian will bring the news home again – owned by, written, read and seen by Memphians – of and for Memphis.
The writers you love to read because you can tell they love to write are coming along. The depth of understanding necessary to be meaningful here will be obviously here again. The latest digital, real-time technology will be guided by the highest of old school journalism standards. The truth will be told in Memphis every day.
Yes, it’s online, so get over it. If you’re feeling nostalgic, teach your dog to bring your tablet to the breakfast table. Take a walk out to the driveway and back in your bathrobe before you open your laptop or desktop. Put your phone in a blue plastic bag overnight so you can take it out and open it in the morning. If you want to hold and read paper, read the numbers on the bills you’re saving with an online subscription.
Full disclosure, as you might have gathered, this humble columnist will be showing up weekly.
I’m a Memphian, and The Daily Memphian is all about us.
Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at email@example.com