The power of “the news”

Somewhere in an old family photo album is a Polaroid print of me, aged two or three, toddling around my grandfather’s newsroom in Seminole County, Oklahoma. I don’t remember precisely when it was taken, but I’m sure I was happy. It was a fun place to be, with a huge noisy mechanical press, cutting boards with hot wax guns (strictly forbidden) and a photographic dark room.

My grandfather was owner, publisher and editor-in-chief of three weekly newspapers, all produced in what he called “the shop.”  My grandmother set the type, sold ads and answered the phone.  Two uncles roved as reporters, laid out pages, shot and developed film, and made deliveries.  It smelled of newsprint, ink and Dr. Pepper.

A few years after that photo was taken, my family made a regular summer visit from our home in Texas, reported by my grandfather in a short article on page four or five of his flagship publication, the Konawa Leader: “Gallagher Family Visits Area.” He referenced our main activities – swimming, eating ice cream and, I think, attending a rodeo.

And he mentioned my siblings and me by name.

Our names. I hadn’t be able to read for long, but this was astounding.  In the newspaper.  I’ve been mentioned in a few others since then, but so far the thrill of that moment is unmatched.

I asked him who decides what goes in the paper and what does not; even then, it occurred me that there were other things happening in the area that had not been featured in that week’s news.  We had a firecracker battle with our cousins, for example, which was pointedly omitted.

“I do,” he said.  “I’m the editor.”

Holy smoke.  The editor decides.

From that instant I can trace a lifelong interest in “the news” – how it’s made, how it’s influenced and how it affects just about every aspect of our lives.  I went on to study journalism at the University of Texas and then, as some of my professors would say, to pervert it as a public relations consultant in Washington, DC and London.  It’s all still fascinating to me.

It’s also the origin of this blog, where I’d like to share observations, ask questions and informally ponder the nature of news and how we consume, process and share it. Posts will generally be “working out loud” commentary that may or may be further developed later. Some will be clearly news-related; others maybe less so, but I’ll try not to meander too far into other territory.

I’m new to blogging, and suggestions and feedback are welcome.

And yes, if I can find that Polaroid, I’ll post it.

3 thoughts on “The power of “the news”

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