Loose Ends: Extra, extra

Growing up in a small town, we always got a newspaper delivered to our front door. It was the main way that we got our news. Most everyone supported the local newspaper by subscribing, as well as advertising their businesses in it as well.  The dailies or “big newspapers”, as well as the weeklies, operated in the same traditional fashion. The newspapers were our main sources of national and local news. 

The front pages of both newspapers reported on the things that were currently happening in town. The key word in the previous sentence is reported. Most newspapermen and women throughout the years abided by an ethical code that did not leave room for speculation, only facts. Yellow journalism was not an approved business practice during my childhood, while easy to read tabloids were readily available throughout the years, since newspapers were the main sources of news. They had radio and television eventually, and in our recent memories, social media, but that was when the printed word was still revered.

Both of my parent’s first jobs after college were at newspapers. They started out as reporters then both wrote political opinion and “slice of life” columns that appeared regularly-usually once a week. I didn’t read most of those pieces until I was in high school, when it dawned on me that my mother had been using our daily lives as material for both the big city paper and the one in our hometown. She became known for her advice in both columns “The Working Mother” and “Day By Day” telling everyone within reading distance about our daily mishaps. They were both funny and poignant,  as she doled out both advice and her opinions to other women who ended up as breadwinners during the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.

While I was proud of her, I was embarrassed that my friends and their parents always knew what was happening in my private life: such as finishing off a whole bag of potato chips and a couple of cans of coke waiting for her to get home from work. Somehow my teenaged-self could completely ignore the messy house and be completely surprised that she didn’t approve of my ability to put off “picking it up to make it acceptable.” My selective hearing somehow made sure that I had forgotten the family mantra about trying to make it possible for her to come home to a relatively clean house after a long day at work. 

My mother’s weekly columns flourished for more than a decade, and she became known as a master of the short, funny, twist. My father’s columns were more reportorial, but nonetheless not something I enjoyed reading much because I simply had no interest in the political doings of the adults around me. It featured high society movers and corporate shakers who were fundraising usually with a party or get-together.   

A newspaperman usually stood by a code of ethics, as there was no room for error or diversion from the facts. My older brothers started early in the family business, so to speak, as I remember them cutting open a bundle of fresh papers that had been left on our front yard early in the morning. Then they creased and folded each paper into three sections to fit in a canvas sack they threw over their shoulders before climbing up on their bicycles to make their daily neighborhood rounds.  

Newspapers now are struggling to survive. That is why it is up to all of us to continue to support one of Colorado’s oldest weekly newspapers. The kids among us may be the first to tell you that “nobody reads newspapers anymore.” One of my favorite third graders (yes, my granddaughter) told me she reads my column weekly, as she discovered “she liked them.” I took that as the ultimate compliment. I encourage everyone to advertise, subscribe and contribute to this newspaper’s fundraising efforts that offer all of us a way to ensure that the Rio Blanco Herald Times can stay in business. I hope we will all make an extra effort for the coming year, as I still love the old-fashioned newsboy appeal to readers everywhere: “Extra, Extra, read all about it!

By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times