Starting Monday, readers who have, on rare occasion, found the writing in this column to be vague, muddled or inconsistent will no longer be able to point their fingers solely at the writer.
Critics will soon read these pearls of wisdom in the early morning hours and when confronted with an obvious error this correspondent will blithely suggest they were still a little groggy and they should go back and take a second look at the paper. By the time they get around to searching for the offending column, it will be in the recycling bin or wrapped around a North Long Lake walleye and I will have dodged another bullet and lived to cash another paycheck.
Welcome to the world of morning newspapers. We have shifted and rearranged our work deadlines and schedules to the point that if you ask a Brainerd Dispatch employee what day it is -- you had better double check the answer with a good calendar.
Covering and printing the news is a vocation that's always gone beyond normal business hours. Most of us accept that as part of the business. While the new schedule will cause disruptions to Dispatch employees we realize the Brainerd area is a safer and more productive region because of the efforts of people who've labored at all hours of the day at St. Joseph's Medical Center, the defunct Potlatch plant and at the police stations and fire halls throughout the area.
Those who follow journalism trends realize the afternoon paper has long been considered a relic, a dinosaur. Corporate consultants can pull out charts and cite studies that would make one wonder how this decrepit old throwback of a newspaper has limped along since 1881.
Picture a stodgy old newsman who's clinging to his typewriter and hiding a pint of whiskey in his desk. That's the image of the afternoon newspaper.
Well, before we put this old-timer to bed let's look back at a few big stories where this P.M. paper scooped the next day's A.M.
* Editors at The Brainerd Daily Dispatch tore up the front page on Nov. 22, 1963, when the news broke that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Morning newspaper subscribers read about it the next day. Then-editor Les Sellnow was eating lunch at home when he heard the television reports and hustled back to work.
* When President Ronald Reagan was shot at the Washington Hilton on March 30, 1981, The Dispatch remade the front page to include it in that day's paper. Wire Editor Paul Forsberg bolted out of the restaurant that was next door to The Dispatch's old Sixth Street location when he learned on television that President Ronald Reagan had been shot. A news report had replaced the usual soap opera fare on the bar's TV. When Forsberg had asked what was up the bartender casually mentioned that the president had been shot.
* Forsberg was also on the wire desk on Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger was scheduled for a morning blastoff. Not usually given to workday outbursts, Forsberg couldn't contain himself when he checked The Associated Press wire reports, expecting to edit a routine story about a successful shuttle launch.
"It blew up!" he exclaimed when he called up the story on his computer.
The Challenger and all its crew members were destroyed moments after blastoff.
* Even though the newsroom monitors The Associated Press we appreciate getting a heads-up on big national news when fellow employees hear it on radio or television. Amy Carlson of the circulation department was in the drive-through lane at Burger King when she heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. That tragic episode and the others that followed dominated the front page of that day's newspaper and the ramifications of that day continues to claim its share of headlines today.
* A grim-faced Brainerd Water and Light Superintendent Elmer Lalli flicked the switch to fluoridate the city's water supply after a 30-year fight against the process at 11 a.m. Feb. 7, 1980. A picture of the historic event was in that night's Brainerd Daily Dispatch.
In fairness, breaking news happens when it happens. It doesn't pay much attention to the clock. There were plenty of big stories that broke first in the morning papers. It's pretty much luck of the draw.
Today's news junkies have a glut of information to digest from alternative sources as varied as radio and television broadcasts, the Internet and magazines. Twenty-five years ago folks living a mile from this newspaper plant were unable to get cable television. They'd rig up their antennas and pick up an Alexandria television station. If their favorite show was on some other station it was too bad, so sad. Sifting through the various media choices today can be a daunting task.
The best service newspapers can offer to readers is timely, accurate news with as much context and perspective as possible given the daily time restraints. Newspaper journalism is history in a hurry. It may be flawed and incomplete at times but on its good days it represents the best efforts of many hardworking people.
We hope you enjoy your new Brainerd Dispatch.
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