A loving and laughter-filled trip back to a lost American time when the newspaper business was the happiest game in town
In a warm, affectionate true-life tale, New York Times bestselling author and CNN contributor, Bob Greene travels back to a place where--when little more than a boy--he had the grand good luck to find himself surrounded by a brotherhood and sisterhood of wayward misfits who, on the mezzanine of a Midwestern building, put out a daily newspaper that didn't even know it had already started to die. "In some American cities," Greene writes, "famous journalists at mighty and world-renowned papers changed the course of history with their reporting." But at the Columbus Citizen-Journal, there was a willful rejection of grandeur: these were overworked reporters and snazzy sportswriters, nerve-frazzled editors and insult-spewing photographers, who found pure joy in the fact that, each morning, they awakened to realize, "I get to go down to the paper again."
At least that is how it seemed in the eyes of the novice copyboy who saw romance in every grungy pastepot, a symphony in the song of every creaking typewriter. With current-day developments in the American newspaper industry so grim and dreary, Late Edition is a Valentine to an era that was gleefully cocky and seemingly free from care, a wonderful story as bracing and welcoming as the sound of a rolled-up paper thumping onto the front stoop just after dawn.
Greene, a veteran Chicago columnist and author (When We Get to Surf City), offers a glowing tribute to the glory days of America's newspapers and the simpler society they so aptly reflected. Currently a CNN contributor, he remembers his days as a copyboy and other apprentice positions at the Columbus Citizen-Journal and the Columbus Dispatch, two rival newspapers in Ohio's capital city, with the noisy reporters, prying editors, artful pressmen and artisans in the composing room. Greene laments the passing of a proud tradition from the peak year of 1984 with 63.3 million circulation sliding to 50.7 million per day, noting its generational gap of 63.7% of daily readers being 55 years or older contrasted with 33% of readers ages 25-37. Refreshing, respectful and comical, Greene's press-time recollections are meant to be read slowly and savored as the current chaotic computerized information business replaces newsprint, banner headlines and night owl editions. (July)
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St. Martin's Press
July 05, 2009
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Excerpt from Late Edition by Bob Greene
I hadn't been expecting to see the place.
We were rolling through the country in a vehicle that was something out of an old-time science-fiction writer's most vivid futuristic dreams.
This was during the autumn in which Barack Obama was campaigning for president--the campaign which would culminate, that November, with his history-changing victory.
"We'll be at the hotel in a few minutes," Dale Fountain called back to me.
He was the driver of this vehicle--it was called the CNN Election Express, and from the outside it looked like a massive bus. Inside, though, it was a live television studio on wheels--control consoles, editing suite, satellite-uplink hardware, ten high-definition monitors. From the bus, even as it was speeding down a highway, we could transmit pictures and sound that would instantly be seen on television screens around the world. I was writing columns about the presidential campaign every day for CNN's political site on the Internet; we could stop in a town, report on a speech or a rally, interview some potential voters, snap their photographs . . .
And then, even as the bus was on its way, I could write the column, send it and the pictures skyward, and within minutes, before we had reached the next stop, it would be available for reading by an audience in every corner of the globe.
We had been in many places during the course of the long campaign--in the days just before arriving in this town, we had reported from Washington, D.C., from Maryland, from Pennsylvania, from West Virginia, from Mississippi, from Arkansas, from Kentucky. In a new-media age, the bus was an electronic marvel--it provided an almost incomprehensibly advanced digital delivery system for every kind of storytelling imaginable.
So I was writing away in the middle section of the bus--I was a sixty-one-year-old man enthralled by all the ways this three-million-dollar vehicle suddenly enabled a person to communicate his reporting to viewers and readers in the blink of an eye--and I looked up to see that the town into which we were heading was the capital city of Ohio. Columbus.
I stopped typing, and looked out the window.
On a downtown street--the address was 34 South Third Street--there was an old, stone-fronted building.
I had been there before, many times.
There once had been a certain room on the mezzanine.
Inside the bus, transmission-equipment lights blinked silently on and off.
I looked toward the building and tried to recall a sound from long ago.
Excerpted from Late Edition by Bob Greene.
Copyright (c) 2009 by John Deadline Enterprises, Inc.
Published in July 2009 by St. Martin's Press.
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