newspapers

Photo of the Day

Liz Smith with Donald, Ivana and Ivanka Trump in 1987. Credit Tom Gates/Getty Images

Liz Smith

“The Grand Dame of Dish”

She was the most powerful gossip columnist in the 1980s. A tabloid celebrity herself, she could turn anyone into a star overnight. Celebrity culture would be nothing like it is today were it not for Liz Smith, known better as the Grand Dame of Gossip. For decades, her column was the only thing that mattered in showbiz and even today, at 94, she’s still writing about the comings and goings of the rich and famous.

From the time she began her first job at a New York City studio rag called Modern Screen, the renowned journalist has had a ringside seat for every celebrity story and scandal since World War II. Smith, a native Texan and graduate of the University of Texas, arrived in New York in 1949 with $50 to her name and no ticket home. Turns out she didn’t need one.

After working at some of the country’s top publications in various roles, Smith became a new kind of gossip columnist – one known for wit, humour, extensive legwork and fairness.

Smith became a celebrity herself due to her syndicated gossip column, starting out by ghostwriting a gossip column for Hearst newspapers in the 1950s and landing her own self-titled gossip column at the New York Daily News in 1976.

At the peak of her career, she was syndicated in more than 75 newspapers worldwide, and she eventually went to the New York Post, which let her go in 2009 when she was 86 years old.

She opened up about what it was like to dismissed by Rupert Murdoch, which she said “hurt my feelings and stature as a columnist.

“I was more shocked than anyone,” she said. “I thought I was indispensable.”

Read more »

Photo of the Day

Hunter rode the British made motorcycle BSA A65 Lightning while researching Hell’s Angels. When he lived in Big Sur in the early 1960s, he rode his Lightning so much he was known as “The Wild One of Big Sur”.

“Some May Never Live, but the Crazy Never Die”

Hunter S. Thompson

He was a gun-loving, hard-drinking ‘outlaw journalist’ with a taste for illegal substances.

Hunter S. Thompson reached the peak of his literary career in the mid-Seventies after his books, Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were published to great success.

His writing broke from conventional reporting and straddled both fiction and non-fiction, a unique approach which turned him into a counter-culture icon and won him legions of fans. His trademark reporting style became what’s now called gonzo journalism, in which he made himself a central character in his own stories. And a character he was: his stories often centred on his panache for excessive consumption while surveying America’s political and cultural landscape in a way that no one had before.

Asked to list what they require before commencing a day’s work, most would probably list things like coffee, toast and perhaps a cigarette or two, but not Hunter S. Thompson, who needed a kaleidoscopic bevvy of cocaine, Chartreuse and hot tubs in order to get his creative juices flowing.

His daily routine was charted by E. Jean Carroll in the first chapter of her 1994 book HUNTER: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson, and remains an object of fascination, awe and horror to this day.

Thompson, who committed suicide at 67, was of course known for his heavy drinking and drug habit and they were both ingrained in his writing. He once said of them:  “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” In spite of his well-deserved reputation for substance abuse, Thompson was an assiduous worker with a writing career that spanned six decades and included 16 books and a litany of short stories and articles.

Read more »

Photo of the Day

Sensational Journalism Defined Newspapers of the Late 1890s

The Murder of Helen Jewett

The murder wasn’t especially unique. But since it involved sex, a new recipe for journalism was born. The investigation and subsequent trial exploded into a national sensation. For the first time in American history, tabloids known as “penny papers” plied a seductive narrative of sex, crime, and romance. In the media world, it was chaos, with little regard for journalistic integrity or facts.

The New York City newspapers referred to her as “the girl in green” – green was her colour and it caught reporters’ eyes. 23-year-old Helen Jewett was a beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated prostitute at Rosina Townsend’s upscale brothel not far from New York’s city hall. Her clients included politicians, lawyers, journalists, and wealthy merchants. One cold April night in 1836 one of them smashed her skull with an axe and set her bed on fire. It was the story that shocked New York and gave birth to sensational journalism.

The April 1836 murder of Helen Jewett, a prostitute in New York City, was an early example of a media sensation. The newspapers of the day ran lurid stories about the case, and the trial of her accused killer, Richard Robinson, became the focus of intense attention.

One particular newspaper, the New York Herald, which had been founded by innovative editor James Gordon Bennett a year earlier, fixated on the Jewett case.

The Herald’s intensive coverage of a particularly gruesome crime created a template for crime reporting that endures to the present day. The frenzy around the Jewett case could be viewed as the beginning of what today we know as the tabloid style of sensationalism, which is still popular in major cities.

The murder of one prostitute in the growing city would likely have been quickly forgotten. But the way coverage of the Jewett murder influenced the growing newspaper business made the crime a much more significant event.

Read more »

Photo of the Day

Johnny Gosch became one of the first children to appear on a milk carton after he went missing. A local Iowa dairy is believed to have come up with the idea to put missing children's faces on milk cartons, one of the first being Johnny's.

Johnny Gosch became one of the first children to appear on a milk carton after he went missing. A local Iowa dairy is believed to have come up with the idea to put missing children’s faces on milk cartons, one of the first being Johnny’s.

Johnny Gosch

The First ‘Milk Carton Child’

The Unsolved Cold Case of Johnny Gosch, a 12-year-old Paperboy who Vanished in 1982, and a Mother’s Enduring Obsession

If you were around in the 1980s, you may undoubtedly remember them: black-and-white photos of missing children printed on the sides of cardboard milk cartons in America.

In 1984, Johnny Gosch’s photograph appeared alongside that of Juanita Rafaela Estavez on milk cartons across America; they were the second and third abducted children to have their plights publicized in this way. The first was Etan Patz.

Here’s the story of how it all started.

In the early morning of Sept. 5, 1982, Johnny Gosch, a 12-year-old paperboy, left home before dawn, for his morning delivery route and never returned.

Though it was customary for Johnny to awaken his father to help with the route, the boy took only the family’s dachshund, Gretchen, with him that morning. Other paper carriers for The Des Moines Register would later report having seen Gosch at the paper drop, picking up his newspapers. It was the last sighting of Gosch that can be corroborated by multiple witnesses.

The Gosches immediately contacted the West Des Moines police department, and reported Johnny’s disappearance. Noreen, in her public statements has been critical of what she perceives as a slow reaction time from authorities, and of the then-current policy that Gosch could not be classified as a missing person until 72 hours had passed. By her estimation, the police did not arrive to take her report for a full 45 minutes.

He had been pulling a red wagon because the paper was particularly heavy that day, with his dachshund, Gretchen, at his side. The wagon was later discovered abandoned in the grass flanking a street in his West Des Moines, Iowa, neighbourhood, and his dog found its way home alone.

His father often went with him on Sundays, but this time the boy did his route alone. By 6:00 a.m. the Gosch home was getting phone calls from neighbours:

Where were their newspapers?

John Gosch, Johnny’s father, got out of bed and went to look for his son. Two blocks from their home he found Johnny’s wagon, full of papers.

He had been pulling a red wagon because the paper was particularly heavy that day. The wagon was discovered abandoned in the grass flanking a street in his West Des Moines, Iowa, neighbourhood, and his dog found its way home alone.

Johnny Gosch was nowhere to be found.

Read more »

Photo of the Day

b9c55e7759d53b3b297af5ffa252f657A Story Of A Genius

William James Sidis was a genius. He was by far the most precocious intellectual child of his generation. His death in 1944 as an undistinguished figure was made the occasion for reawakening the old wives tales about nervous breakdowns, burned out prodigies and insanity among geniuses.

Young Sidis was truly an intellectual phenomenon. His childhood achievements ranked with those of John Stuart Mill, Thomas Macaulay, and Johann Goethe. By the time William Sidis was two he could read English and, at four he was typing original work in French. At the age of five he had devised a formula whereby he could name the day of the week for any given historical date. At eight he projected a new logarithms table based on the number twelve. He entered Harvard at the age of twelve and graduated cum laude before he was sixteen. Mathematics was not his only forte. At this age he could speak and read fluently French, German, Russian, Greek, Latin, Armenian and Turkish. During his first year at Harvard University the boy astounded students and scientists with his theories on “Fourth Dimensional Bodies.”

The “man behind the gun” in this boy’s amazing intellectual attainments is supposed to have been his father, a graduate in psychology at Harvard and a close friend of William James, after whom the boy was named. Dr. Boris Sidis believed in awakening in the child of two an interest in intellectual activity and love of knowledge. If you started early enough and worked intensively, Dr. Sidis claimed that by ten a child would acquire knowledge equal to that of a college graduate. The boy’s father published articles urging other parents to follow his methods. He castigated the school authorities for their “cramming, routine and rote methods,” which he said, “tend to nervous degeneracy and mental breakdown.”

Sidis pointed to his son, William, as a successful example of his methods. He wrote: “At the age of twelve the boy had a fair understanding of comparative philology and mythology. He is well versed in logic, ancient history, American history and has a general insight into our politics and into the ground-work of our constitution.

Read more »

Photo of the Day

Carole Tregoff puts her head on her manacled wrist and breaks into tears after her arraingment.

Carole Tregoff puts her head on her manacled wrist and breaks into tears after her arraignment.

The Fascinating Finch Affair

Rampant greed, sex, and a considerable dose of comedy ensured that this trial of a wealthy doctor and his mistress as joint defendants on charges of murder dominated newspaper headlines for months.

Here’s one that takes you back to, when automobile tailfins were at their height, Ike was still in the White House, and newspapers were full of stories about the doctor, his girl friend, and his murdered wife.

Dr. Bernard Finch was a middle-aged Los Angles–area surgeon who was having a torrid romance with his shapely young receptionist, Carole Tregoff. The only problem was that Finch was already married, and his wealthy and socially prominent wife would clean him out financially in the event of a divorce.

What to do? Murder seemed like the most profitable solution, but a hired assassin failed to get the job done. So the determined lovers were left to do it themselves.

On February 26, 1961, Carole Tregoff received a letter from Dr. Bernard Finch.  In it, he told her of his undying love, of his thoughts about their future together, of how, from the beginning, he had considered her the most wonderful girl he had ever known.  It was an anniversary letter, he said, for it celebrated the very first time they had lunched téte-a-téte four years before.  Under ordinary circumstances the letter would have been no more remarkable than any of the billions of exchanges between men and their women since the first cave man chiseled a valentine to his chick.  But the circumstances weren’t ordinary.  Both Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff were serving life sentences in California penitentiaries: he for obtaining an “instant divorce: with the help of a .38-caliber bullet; she for conspiring with him to commit the crime.

Carole had been introduced to Finch three weeks after she was hired as a receptionist at the West Covina Medical Center in Los Angeles.  Finch and his brother-in-law were partners in the Center and had borrowed a quarter of a million dollars to set it up.  When the doctor and the ravishing redhead met he said, “Hello, and that was that for about seven months.  Carole soon heard gossip at the Center about the doctor’s marriage — not good — and that he was, in fact, dating a couple of the Center’s pretty employees.  Since she was having marital problems of her own at the time, the gossip made little impression on her.  But, from a distance, the handsome doctor did.

Carole, eighteen when the employment agency sent her to be interviewed at the Center, was tall, red-headed, extremely pretty, with an outstanding figure — if you know what I mean.  She was married to a chap named Jimmy Pappa, whom she had first dated during high school.  The marriage wasn’t working.  Not at all.  They shared an apartment and little else.

Dr. Finch at forty had a lucrative surgical practice, was a ranking tennis amateur, and had a winning way with the ladies.  He was, in short, notably successful both as surgeon and operator.  The home in which he and his wife lived, with their small son and her young daughter by a previous marriage, was quite elegant.  They each had a car, he a Cadillac, she a Chrysler.  They had a dog.  And they had a lovely young Swedish girl, a part-time college student, to take care of the two children and help around the house.  In the end, it was this girl more than anyone who cooked the doctor’s goose.

Read more »

How the EPMU and declining media hurt my home town

I went on a road trip down memory lane last weekend to show my daughter where I grew up. Our family home was across the road from a walkway that led to Kawerau Central School, which was my primary school. We visited my old home, which was neat as a pin in a street that had a number of neglected homes in need of repair.

My old family home in Kawerau PHOTO-Whaleoil.co.nz

My old family home in Kawerau
PHOTO-Whaleoil.co.nz

I wanted to show my daughter my old school but was puzzled as to why the walkway was blocked off. When we tried to access the school from another street we realised the sad truth: it was gone.

Central_Demolition_1

Original Filename: Central_Demolition_1.jpg

In 2011 the remaining three primary schools in Kawerau were merged into one and the intermediate-aged students were merged with Kawerau College, which was renamed Tarawera High School. They did this because they were losing 60+ students a year from each school. So, what happened to this once prosperous and vibrant town of my childhood?

Read more »

The future of newspapers

The future of newspapers is grim.

newspapers

The print newspapers are bleeding ink…lots of it.

The Dominion Post is dead on its feet. They have less circulation daily than I have readers on Whaleoil.

As a matter of fact all but the Herald are in the same position.   Read more »

Yesterday’s papers – the UK Independent stops printing

Ironically this is yesterday’s news as well.

The Independent has called an end to its print newspaper operation after three decades, and will produce an online edition only, making around 75 journalists redundant.

The newspaper publishing group claimed the move would ensure a “sustainable and profitable future” for the company which has been struggling with heavy losses for years.

The newspaper, which was launched in 1986, will print its last daily title on 26 March. The last Independent on Sunday will be published on 20 March.   Read more »

Photo Of The Day

"Awful Calamity. Wild Animals Broken Loose from Central Park." An illustration that accompanied an 1893 article in Harper's Weekly about the hoax.

“Awful Calamity. Wild Animals Broken Loose from Central Park.” An illustration that accompanied an 1893 article in Harper’s Weekly about the hoax.

Awful Calamity

Wild Animals Broken Loose from Central Park

In late 19th-Century America, the big newspapermen were kings. Famous publishers like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer exercised inordinate powers over both government policy and ‘public’ opinion.

The New York Herald was, along with the New York World, one of the most influential news outlets of its day. James Gordon Bennett took over as publisher of the paper in 1867 after the retirement of his father of the same name. The younger Bennett was eager to establish the paper’s reputation by financing major expeditions, such as that of Henry Stanley starting in 1869 to find Dr David Livingstone. The Scot, Dr Livingstone, had been lost somewhere in Africa while working as a missionary.

Unlike modern American newspapers, which tend to disguise or even deny their political orientation, 19th Century newspapers were outspokenly political and the Herald was no exception. It was at least nominally populist and certainly sympathetic to the Democratic Party. Even more influential, however, was Bennett’s orientation toward the advancement of his own power and influence.

Although accounts differ on this point, it is generally believed that Bennett was known in upper class New York circles to brag about his influence, claiming that he had so much control over New York that he could keep the entire city in their houses for a whole day. Someone finally took him up on the bet and on November 9, 1874 the Herald‘s headline screamed ‘Escaped Animals Roam Streets of Manhattan’.

Read more »