Often the past is a fond memory because our memories tend to make the past somewhat fuzzy. I was an avid reader at a young age. One of my favorite activities was reading the daily newspaper. Can’t say with any accuracy when I started reading a newspaper every day, but without a doubt, I was in grade school. One of my clearest memories of a newspaper story was about a Leopard escaping from the Oklahoma City zoo. I can recall with detail the many pages the paper devoted to this event. There were large diagrams showing how the tiger leaped from one perch to another then completed an amazing leap of faith to reach the top. I spent hours probing the details.
Now the shocking part is that this occurred when I was six. It makes no sense to me that I have such a strong memory of this story and the details that were printed in the paper; but they are there. In Oklahoma City at that time (1951) there were two daily newspapers: a morning paper and evening. Both owned by the same dominate, powerful man; E.K. Gaylord. Much later, a start-up newspaper prompted an ugly newspaper war in my hometown. That is the basis of a series of books I wrote, The Muckraker Series. My books are fiction, but much of the conflict between the old-guard paper and the new upstart presented in the books actually happened.
I’m not sure about my memories as a six-year old reading the newspaper, but I do know that I have been a daily reader of newspapers for a long time. Today most of what I read are on-line versions. The days of two competing papers in a market putting out multiple editions and huge, massive Sunday papers is long gone.
When I first moved to Denver, the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News were in an ugly competitive war. It did not turn out well for the papers, but as a reader it was wonderful. These were both huge newspapers and they were almost giving them away in their frenzied competitive effort to defeat one another. The sports sections alone had more local coverage pages than the current version of the Post has in the whole newspaper. The glory days of newspapers are over.
Over the years I’ve known several newspaper people and they all had a common trait: a dedication to the truth. One of the characters in the Muckraker books was based on one of those acquaintances. His book name was Taylor Albright. The real Albright was a mild-mannered, soft-spoken man who was fearless. He had been threaten so many times it had become a normal part of his life; but he never backed down. His obligation to the truth was a reason for being. He wrote about politics, corruptions, the police departments, crooked businessmen, social injustice; he was loved and hated. He once told me that he expected to be fired every day, because he wrote about the truth and his employer was in the advertising business pushing mostly lies.
The real Albright was fired and started putting out his own “free” paper. That paper was what a friend of mine called a “hoot.” Albright extended no mercy to anyone and wrote what he saw as the truth. Of course, his truth had a known bias; his. The free newspaper didn’t last long (even with my help) and Albright soon disappeared, like a ghost.
The memory of him and his quest is no-doubt much like the Leopard story, fuzzy. He left town owing a lot of people money, including me; and as best as I could tell nothing he wrote about actually changed. But many people talked about what he was writing, they disagreed often; but they also changed their minds. He influenced people who were able to change things. Maybe those things did not change that week or even that year, but I think he influenced them to look at the problem and acknowledge the truth.
I will continue to read stories by people who are seeking the truth wherever I can find them. Soon there will only be on-line newspapers which is sad; but the content can still have impact. One of my favorite “reporters” today is Matt Taibbi who I have been following since his Rolling Stone days. Check out his latest. Truth seekers, like Matt, are often people you don’t agree with but always make sound arguments for their positions.
Sold a little artwork this week. Thanks so much. Some of those were people from my past. It was great to reconnect. One, who I will call R.M., was someone I admired for his talents. He was a great musician. I have mentioned before how I had certain talents and have continued my entire life working on those skills, but what I wanted to be was musical. It was magic to me to watch my friend R.M. play music. If I could trade, I believe I would trade whatever skill I have as a writer or artist to be able to play the piano. And before you scream at me, believe me, I have tried. Yes, I tried and failed. Maybe that is the definition of talent; some have it, some don’t—and if you don’t, you can’t fake it. Oh well, maybe I will give piano lessons one more shot—if only my wrist wasn’t already hurting from writing. How about singing—nah, not a good idea.