View Full Version : JoPo - Death in the Afternoon …

Hammock Parties
01-04-2008, 12:23 AM
Great post by the Pos on his blog about the Cincy Post going under.


Another afternoon newspaper died Monday, the fourth one I’ve managed to help knock off in my relatively short life on this earth. The Cincinnati Post printed its final edition on the last day of 2007. The huge headline on the front was the iconic “-30-” that newspaper people for more than 100 years have used to denote the end — end of a story, end of a page, end of an era. Even when I was young and using the old Teleram (a sort of early computer that weighed 495 pounds and had a screen roughly the size of a Halloween-sized Snickers bar), we had to put that “-30-” at the end of the story or it would not be transmitted into the system. Of course, there were many ways to keep a story from getting transmitted on the Teleram. If anyone sneezed within the greater metropolitan area, the story would not get transmitted. The Teleram wasn’t exactly a marvel of technology.

ASIDE: I love old newspaper lingo like the -30-, the green eyeshade and all that. You will still hear newspaper editors say something like, “Give me four or five grafs on that,” in which “grafs” mean “paragraphs.” I remember the first time I covered a high school basketball game, the editor asked for seven or eight grafs, and I was so scared I didn’t even ask him what he meant. I spent many hours wondering what kind of graphs he wanted — a diagram, maybe, that followed the points of the game, maybe some sort of bar graph that compared team rebounds, I’m being quite serious here. Later, an editor asked me for a “note” about an upcoming event and so I took out a piece of paper and scribbled “Magic Johnson will appear at a local department store” and handed it to him. Man, I was greener than those eyeshades.

I grew up in an afternoon newspaper house. My father packed his lunch in a brown sack, and he was in the Chevy Nova and off to the factory by 6:30 a.m. every morning. So there was no point in us getting a morning paper. We got the afternoon paper, The Cleveland Press, which was delivered at — well, whenever my delivery route batch was plopped down at the house. I delivered the Press on Warrendale Road pretty much all of my childhood. My brother delivered the Press on Colony. My mother helped us fold the papers. My father would drive me around on the days when the snow was overwhelming, which in Cleveland pretty much covered every day between Oct. 23rd and April 17th. We were a Cleveland Press family.

I loved The Cleveland Press. Loved it. Loved the little lighthouse on the cover. Loved the bold headlines. Loved the way the ink stained my hands. And I hated the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the morning paper. I was 10. I felt so sure, in that kid’s way, that the Press was the real paper, the one read by real people. hard-working people in tiny and neat box houses, one rusty car in the driveway, dinner tables bursting with conversation and grandmas who lived two doors down, who had flowery tins filled with cookies. And the Plain Dealer was the rich person’s paper, read by sour-faced couples sitting at opposite ends of dark cherry tables as long as stretch limos, each of them tapping their spoons daintily at hard-boiled eggs. Yes, that’s how I imagined it.

ASIDE 2: To give you an idea about that absurd imagination .. I was absolutely certain that I could tell the difference between an NFL game on NBC and an NFL game on CBS based entirely on the color. To my eyes, NBC games always had a little bit brighter, more exuberant color, sort of like the after-picture in the Cheer commercials (those Cleveland Browns orange pants never looked more orange!). And CBS games seemed a bit darker, more stark, like Tim Burton’s Batman. Years later, in a moment of weakness. I mentioned this insanity to my great, good friend Chuck Culpepper — the only man I know who can recite, word-for-word, entire Howard Cosell halftime highlight monologues. And Chuck said that he had noticed the same thing, the same color difference (though he recalled CBS being sharper and more in focus, but that’s because he was a Rams fan). So maybe I’m not insane. Or maybe we’re both insane.

In any case, 10 years old, and I had chosen sides. I was an afternoon newspaper man. I honestly believed then — believe now too — that this made me a certain kind of person (a person, perhaps, doomed to being a casualty of technology). When I was in high school, I sold the afternoon Charlotte News door-to-door. I was terrible at it, but I still remember the pitch that Leon– the large and somewhat creepy guy who sounded exactly like Larry the Cable Guy and would drive us around — taught us, the part about how, “There’s no better feeling in the world than coming home from a long day of work to a newspaper with the latest news.” I guess this sounded better than, “There’s no better feeling than coming home and finding a newspaper in your yard filled with stuff you already knew.”

My first columnist job, I wrote for both The Augusta Chronicle (the morning paper) and The Augusta Herald (the afternoon paper). The Herald was an old relic on its last legs by then — it seemed to remain in print only because someone forgot to pull the plug. But I had a special feeling for the old fossil. At that time, we were just reprinting everything in the Chronicle for the Herald, but every so often I would write a special column just for the five or six Herald subscribers. I suspected they were still in box houses with one rusty car, or grandmas with cookies in tins. It was a great practice newspaper. You could write anything in the Herald. You could put STATE SECRETS in the Herald. Nobody read it.

They all died, of course. The Press, the News, the Herald, they were all closed down within a couple of years of my working there. So I knew the score when I took a job as columnist of The Cincinnati Post, one of the last big-city afternoon papers in America. It was like signing on to write disco songs in 1983. And yet … it was one of about three or four big decisions that have marked my life. The Post was still feisty when I signed on. When I arrived they had an ad campaign about me — supposedly I was on the side of a bus, but I never saw it. The campaign was basically, “He grew up in Cleveland, but he’s still OK.” I’m not kidding. That was the campaign. Circulation, you will note, did not skyrocket.

But we were one helluva sports section. I mean that in every way that “helluva” can be used. The talent has scattered now — Jeff writes Red Sox in Boston, John writes baseball for SI.com, Todd writes fabulous stories in Columbus, the smaller Todd writes Cowboys in Dallas, Skinny and Gambo (last I heard) did one of the most popular talk shows in Cincinnati, Bill writes Bearcats for the Crosstown Enquirer, Janet’s working nights at the Detroit News, Mark runs a slew of smaller newspapers in the most scenic part of Florida.

And it was beautiful. Have you ever had that feeling that you were living in a sitcom? Well, you probably have. But have you ever been in a situation where EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM felt like they were living in a sitcom. That was the Post. The star of the show was Bear, who could be pretty easily identified by the fact that he was wearing a baseball cap that said “BEAR” on it and he tended to refer to himself as “Bear.” He often referred to the wife as “Mrs. Bear.” He was one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known. He also would sometimes start talking in some sort of mock Japanese for no apparent reason.

“Hello?” I said in that groggy voice that you have when it’s 7 a.m., and you were fast asleep, and the phone rings.

“Joe,” the voice said on the other line. “Bear thought you wrote one helluva column today.”

“Thanks Bear.”

“Hong cha, Yah, Okaboo.”

“OK, see you in the office.’

Mark, the sports editor who shaped me more than anyone, would be sitting in his small office and fretting about how to keep the paper from dying before 3 p.m. I love that guy. The great thing about Mark was that you always knew within 2.8 seconds of calling what he felt about the story you sent in. When I wrote something decent, I would call and say, “Hi Mark,” and he would say “HEYYYYYY, Joe, how ARE you?” And when I wrote something crap, I would call and he would say, “Oh, hi.” Sometimes, the “Oh hi,” was actually because someone else wrote something crap — he thought my story was fine — and I’m embarrassed to say that I felt better when that happened.

Not that Mark was some sort of tyrant — no, quite the opposite. Greatest guy in the world. You never wanted to disappoint him. He worked so hard to make the sports section good, to beat the morning Cincinnati Enquirer, to keep us vibrant and, mostly, alive. He cared so much about fighting the good fight, even though the war had long been lost. He kept us going. We woke up most days and felt like we had the better sports section. The days we didn’t feel that way were cold and dark.

Skinny and Gambo used to do a radio show in the office long before they had a radio show. They were beautiful — they could argue about anything. I mean ANYTHING. “Sarge (they always called each other Sarge), you know the Utah Jazz jerseys are brutal. I mean, seriously, get a real color.” “Sarge, they’re not that bad.” “Are you serious? They’re the worst. They look like they got mixed in with some colors in the wash, Sarge. I mean they’re BAD.” Every day, it was like that. Should jockeys wear silk? Who was the best spitter on Reds? Was it really worth it to win the lottery? Every day.

Every so often, I would get a note from Nick Clooney — George’s Dad — who also wrote a local column for the Post. Nick had to be the single nicest human being on the planet. I remember once he wrote me a letter saying, “Never forget that it’s supposed to be fun.” I never have forgotten that. More, though, I remember the time I ripped the fans for not showing up for Game 1 of the 1995 NLCS. In retrospect, it was a silly column to write, but I was 28 then and I felt it deeply and I don’t regret writing it. You could say people didn’t take too kindly to some Cleveland clown telling Cincinnati fans how they should act after a players strike. I got ripped pretty good for a little while … and then Nick Clooney wrote a column saying that he’d lived in Cincinnati all his life, and I was right, and settle down. And I never heard another word about it again.

Mostly, it was a daily grind. We’d bicker. Fight. Bitch. Moan. Drink together. Often at the same time. We all knew we were on a sinking ship — the water was already up to our knees. We complained to each other. We talked about getting out. We tried for big scores — tried to be noticed. It wasn’t much use. Every so often we’d break a big story, but it wouldn’t make any waves until the Enquirer reported it the next day. Every so often, we’d take a hard stand, but it wouldn’t shake the town until the Enquirer took the same stand (or the opposite stand) later. We’d stay in the locker room later, work harder, craft more, but it often felt like we were tracing words in the sand with a stick. Few seemed to notice — and fewer all the time.

Of course, it didn’t matter much to me. I was doing what I loved doing at a place I felt fiercely loyal to with co-workers who were friends. The only real trouble was that every day, we were taking on a more water. Sinking a little deeper. I knew it wouldn’t last forever. I knew I would have to jump at some point. We all knew.

It’s pretty obvious why afternoon papers have died. America has changed. News cycles have changed (or disappeared — we’re all on 24-hour cycles now). News is old by the afternoon. People’s lifestyles are different — they generally do not come home at 4 p.m. from long days at work, get their slippers out and read the newspaper before dinner the way my father would (my Dad didn’t have slippers; I just threw that in). I get it. The afternoon paper was already dead before the Internet exploded — it’s like they were hit by a meteor and then hit again by an ice age. The Post had to die.

And it did die, Monday, with a farewell edition and that -30- that signifies goodbye. The Post died fighting. The good people there made sure of that. The Post never had a problem finding good people. And it’s a funny thing … I knew the Cincinnati Post would die the day I got hired there. I knew it would die when I left. I knew it would die every time I thought about it — which was surprisingly often over the last 11 years. I knew it as deeply and certainly as I know my social security number. The Post was a goner. And yet, it did die, and it’s still a shock. That’s the kid in me, I guess. I always wanted afternoons to last forever.

-30- indeed.

01-04-2008, 12:27 AM
A.D.D. kicked in again.........Was their anything worth while in that

01-04-2008, 12:33 AM
And this is relevant because???

01-04-2008, 12:38 AM
Read the first sentence and quit.

01-04-2008, 12:55 AM
Nice read for those of us who used to get the Times in the morning and the Star in the evening. The big paper, except on Sundays, was the Times.