The Front Page

There's a terrific movie, The Front Page, based on a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. It stars Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon. It's about a time when Chicago was a city chock-full of newspapers which stopped at nothing in the battle for circulation. The movie is a hoot and the context, in light of recent developments in journalism, solidifies it as a period piece.

I've always been a sucker for newspapers. They have always been the constant in my day. When I was younger the two local papers punctuated the day. You read The Journal Courier in the morning and The Register in the evening. The papers told you everything you wanted to know. They told you about news, about sports, about politics. They told you who died and who was born; what movies were in town; and how many ways you could cook fish during the 40 days of Lent. You read the papers and everyone you knew read the papers. They provided a common ground of information and food for discussion.

Now not so much. Information, tons of information, comes at us unceasingly from countless sources, much of it unattributed, unfiltered for veracity, and unedited for accuracy and style. We learn more about Britney Spears than anyone should properly know or care to know. And it's all in hi-def to boot.

What prompts this musing is news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer just went toes-up. As did, a short while ago The Rocky Mountain News. And just the other day the still-standing New York Times, the paper of record, carried a headline essentially taking odds on which major city would be the first without a daily paper.

Well, our day is coming. You just know that the demise of The New Haven Register is not far off. And after that The Hartford Courant, shrunk now to a third of its former size. And I'm going to miss them both. It will alter my morning routine. Now I won't know who was arrested last night; which local business is celebrating its one-year anniversary; which local resident has a distant cousin who just purchased Frank Sinatra's condo.