Charles Dudley Warner and the newspaper

town crier Once upon a time ago the only means of receiving news was via the “mouthpiece” of a town crier… a person who because he could read and probably had a loud voice, would go about the town, stand in a designated location and impart to the public information from the King; where upon he would then “post” it on a door of an inn or other such place. It is said that he was protected by law since not all the news was greeted with civility. (Hence the expression, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”) And then, there was the invention of the mechanical printing press…thank you Mr. Gutenberg, a most ingenious fellow from Germany who opened the world of local news into mass communication in the 15th century… the printing revolution had begun…though it was a most laborious but effective means of reproduction. And as technology progressed, so has the system of mass producing; no longer are small blocks of letters needed to be placed individually to create independent words, but the voice of the writer now is digitally set.

There are very few places where the newspaper hasn’t graced our lives. For centuries news has magically appeared in the wee hours of the morning just waiting to be unfolded and read. They have traveled with us on the subway, found morning coffee dripped upon their pages , rolled up for an occasional disciplinary tool for that naughty puppy, lain flat across the bottom of the canary cage , and even insulated newborns in bitter cold apartments. The newspaper has dotted our lawns, provided job security for countless youth, and even though scoffed at for staining our finger tips with ink…it has been like a friend who not always tells us what we want to hear.

However, the 21st century has not been kind to our faithful companion, who even expanded its “greetings” to early and late editions. Folks today have changed their habits; like those who once ate a wholesome breakfast at the kitchen table, presently have little patience for even a café grande” in the car. So it appears that taking time to peruse a newspaper has diminished into moments to scan paperless waves ….

Charles Dudley Warner _2 Today’s blog reinstates esteemed thinker: Charles Dudley Warner to the forefront; friend to Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain; he is a noted and accomplished 19th century essayist and writer. Extracted from his essay “American Newspaper” I give you his “clever” writing that will take you on a cerebral sabbatical away from the hustle bustle of the day.

“… Yet it must be confessed that here is one of the greatest difficulties of modern journalism. The newspaper must be cheap. It is, considering the immense cost to produce it, the cheapest product ever offered to man. Most newspapers cost more than they sell for; they could not live by subscriptions; for any profits, they certainly depend upon advertisements. The advertisements depend upon the circulation; the circulation is likely to dwindle if too much space is occupied by advertisements, or if it is evident that the paper belongs to its favored advertisers. The counting-room desires to conciliate the advertisers; the editor looks to making a paper satisfactory to his readers. Between this see-saw of the necessary subscriber and the necessary advertiser, a good many newspapers go down. This difficulty would be measurably removed by the admission of the truth that the newspaper is a strictly business enterprise, depending for success upon a ‘quid pro quo’ between all parties connected with it, and upon integrity in its management…

The power of the press,” as something to be feared or admired, is a favorite theme of dinner-table orators and clergymen”… The power of the press is in its facility for making public opinions and events. I should say it is a medium of force rather than force itself. I confess that I am oftener impressed with the powerlessness of the press than otherwise, its slight influence in bringing about any reform, or in inducing the public to do what is for its own good and what it is disinclined to do..

The publication of the news is the most important function of the paper. How is it gathered? We must confess that it is gathered very much by chance. A drag-net is thrown out, and whatever comes is taken. An examination into the process of collecting shows what sort of news we are likely to get, and that nine-tenths of that printed is collected without much intelligence exercised in selection. The alliance of the associated press with the telegraph company is a fruitful source of news of an inferior quality. Of course, it is for the interest of the telegraph company to swell the volume to be transmitted. It is impossible for the associated press to have an agent in every place to which the telegraph penetrates: therefore the telegraphic operators often act as its purveyors. It is for their interest to send something; and their judgment of what is important is not only biased, but is formed by purely local standards. Our news, therefore, is largely set in motion by telegraphic operators, by agents trained to regard only the accidental, the startling, the abnormal, as news; it is picked up by sharp prowlers about town, whose pay depends upon finding something, who are looking for something spicy and sensational, or which may be dressed up and exaggerated to satisfy an appetite for novelty and high flavor, and who regard casualties as the chief news. Our newspapers every day are loaded with accidents, casualties, and crimes concerning people of whom we never heard before and never shall hear again, the reading of which is of no earthly use to any human being…
And there is scarcely ever a cause, or an opinion, or a man, that does not get somewhere in the press a hearer and a defender. We will drop the subject with one remark for the benefit of whom it may concern. With all its faults, I believe the moral tone of the American newspaper is higher, as a rule, than that of the community in which it is published…”

Esteemed thinker: Charles Dudley Warner

snow_weather It seems as though everyone is complaining that the seasons are changing…this is the hottest spring, the wettest summer, or the coldest winter. For as long as men and women have communicated “weather” has been part of our daily verbiage. In fact it even affects the where and how we choose to live. Folks who live in the northern Untied States and Canada often migrate south to Florida where they spend their winters, earning them the title of “snow birds” by the locals … for they can be seen flocking to the beaches to bask in the sun. While those who live south travel north in the fall to see the changing leaves and receive a perfectly beautiful autumn gift.

And then there are those adages that help us predict what the day’s weather will be; “Red Sky at night sailor’s delight, red sky in morning sailors take warning.” For those who braved the oceans in the days of yore, it was a phrase most presumably uttered for survival in contrast to those today who need to decide if they should take an umbrella to work or not. And then I suppose dog owners and their four legged friends that venture out for an early (too early!) walk in the morning are the first to analyze the weather…that is if they chant this old wives- tale; “If a dog pulls his feet up high while walking, a change in the weather is coming.” Others of us who nurture lovely flower beds can also be considered a forecaster by looking to the garden …”The daisy shuts its eye before rain.”

If perchance you are a supporter or skeptic of a more scientific view of climate… we cannot over look global warming, the greenhouse effect, and the diminishing ozone layer as having contributed to Earth’s changing conditions. As a result of the aforementioned, a roller coaster of affects have been occurring around the world; which range from heat waves to droughts to negative arctic oscillation (a climate pattern where cold Arctic air slides south while warmer air moves north, bringing snow storms and record cold temperatures to much of the Northern Hemisphere) . On the flip side, Earth herself does go through natural warming and climatic revolutions and therefore not all are a factor of human intervention.

So…. if you decide to dash off and spend New Year’s Eve in Taormina, Sicily or take a jaunt to go skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, you will most likely ask someone somewhere before your depart, “ What’s the weather going to be like?”

charles dudley warner I will now cast a favorable prediction on today’s blog in hopes that you will find it to be most informative. Let me bring to your attention the esteemed thinker: Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900), American author, critic, editor, and travel writer born in Plainfield, Massachusetts. Warner was the co- editor of Hartford’s Evening Press for thirty-six years. His friendship with Mark Twain led to a collaboration of writing… its outcome was a dual authorship of the book, The Gilded Age. Warner was a clever and skilled essayist that earned him the reputation during his lifetime as one of America’s most popular authors. Here is a sampling of a few witty quotes that are often repeated today: “Politics makes strange bedfellows” and “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it”. (Sorry for Mr. Warner…many believe these were from the pen of our illustrious Mr. Twain)

And so…. ‘neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this blog’s courier from the swift completion of the appointed round’ …. I present to you words from Charles Dudley Warner’s clever essay, “How Spring Came in New England”.

New England is the battle-ground of the seasons. It is La Vendee. To conquer it is only to begin the fight. When it is completely subdued, what kind of weather have you? None whatever.
What is this New England? A country? No: a camp. It is alternately invaded by the hyperborean legions and by the wilting sirens of the tropics. Icicles hang always on its northern heights; its seacoasts are fringed with mosquitoes. There is for a third of the year a contest between the icy air of the pole and the warm wind of the gulf. The result of this is a compromise: the compromise is called Thaw. It is the normal condition in New England. The New-Englander is a person who is always just about to be warm and comfortable. This is the stuff of which heroes and martyrs are made. A person thoroughly heated or frozen is good for nothing… The New-Englander, by incessant activity, hopes to get warm…
Let us speak of the period in the year in New England when winter appears to hesitate. Except in the calendar, the action is ironical; but it is still deceptive. The sun mounts high: it is above the horizon twelve hours at a time. The snow gradually sneaks away in liquid repentance. One morning it is gone, except in shaded spots and close by the fences. From about the trunks of the trees it has long departed: the tree is a living thing, and its growth repels it. The fence is dead, driven into the earth in a rigid line by man: the fence, in short, is dogma: icy prejudice lingers near it. The snow has disappeared; but the landscape is a ghastly sight,—bleached, dead. The trees are stakes; the grass is of no color; and the bare soil is not brown with a healthful brown; life has gone out of it. Take up a piece of turf: it is a clod, without warmth, inanimate. Pull it in pieces: there is no hope in it: it is a part of the past; it is the refuse of last year…
During the night there is a change. It thunders and lightens. Toward morning there is a brilliant display of aurora borealis. This is a sign of colder weather.
The gardener is in despair; so is the sportsman. The trout take no pleasure in biting in such weather.
Paragraphs appear in the newspapers, copied from the paper of last year, saying that this is the most severe spring in thirty years. Every one, in fact, believes that it is, and also that next year the spring will be early. Man is the most gullible of creatures…”