A few years ago, browsing the aisles of the monthly antiques show at the City Auditorium, I picked up a bound volume of old newspapers; all the issues of the Gazette's predecessor, the Colorado Springs Telegraph, from July 1 to Oct. 1, 1921. I thought it'd be interesting to find out more about our community, as it was fourscore years ago, so I plunked down a few bucks, lugged it home, put it in the back of a closet, and forgot about it.
A few days ago, I decided to clean out the closet, found the newspapers, abandoned the closet-cleaning project, and spent a chilly winter afternoon in the vanished summer of 1921.
Let's look at the Sunday Telegraph of Aug. 28, 1921, and compare it with last Sunday's Gazette.
The Telegraph was a full broadsheet -- 22.5 inches by 17.5 inches, containing eight columns per page. The Gazette has shrunk down to a six-column sheet, 22.5 inches by 12.5 inches. Both papers use remarkably similar fonts, but the Telegraph's print is smaller. Moreover, its front page, with exception of an editorial cartoon, is all print -- no expanses of white space, no cute little photos. But it's still eminently readable, thanks to adept typesetting and a clean, visually exciting layout.
Last Sunday, the G's front page featured four stories (not including "teasers" for stories not featured on page 1). The editors led with "Multiple bombings kill 9 in Iraq" and "City pay getting scrutiny." Below the fold, a story about getting fit and a piece about marriage counseling.
The Telegraph, by contrast, ran no less than 15 stories on the front page. In screaming red ink, the "T" led with "Giant bomb rocks Chicago's Loop District!" and featured stories about the Irish peace talks, inter-party strife in Germany, the American Federation of Labor's displeasure with the Supreme Court, the arrest of a notorious Chicago swindler, and the discovery of "prehistoric bones" on J.W. Scott's ranch east of the Springs, "... including head of giant reptile that may be 'missing link'!"
Clearly, just as the T's front page Pikes Peak logo still graces today's G, their editors both subscribe to that most ancient of editorial credos: If it bleeds, it leads.
In 1921, newspapers had a virtual information monopoly -- no TV, no Internet, and radio was in its infancy. But given that the Telegraph's only market was a tiny city of 20,000 souls, it's an amazing paper. It's hefty -- 42 pages and includes news, sports, classified, movies, a magazine section, a science page, an auto section, a society page, and (some things never change!) a conservative editorial page.
Today's Gazette serves a population 25 times larger than 80 years ago. But it isn't much bigger. Excluding classifieds and the supermarket/coupon inserts, the Sunday paper weighs in at 62 pages. But since the Telegraph is two columns wider, its actual page space is equivalent to 57 Gazette pages.
And what about the copy of the early '20s? Imagine a hybrid of the New York Times and the National Enquirer. From the editorial page: "The Republican Party is heartily and completely fulfilling its pledge to reduce the tax burdens of the citizens ..." And how will it do that? You may be surprised. "... By [obtaining] international consent to a reduction of the enormous expenditure at present necessitated ... by [the] military."
Here's another one, on page 5: "Man charged with wife murder says 'Booze is bad business.'" Alas, he had gunned down his bride of a month when she tried to take away his bottle.
The science section described a device that promised to, by "charging water with electricity as you drink it," make plain water taste like champagne!
The City Auditorium -- lately in the news as potentially for sale to a private developer -- was in the headlines as well. "Indications are that the Council will stick to its original plan to build the Auditorium at Kiowa and Weber ... following the recommendation ... of the chamber of commerce."
The Gazette 86ed its society column last month -- too small-town, I guess. But check out the job postings at http://jounalismjobs.com -- the ever-clueless G is currently advertising for a reporter specializing in "Trends."
I'm glad that the Telegraph was proudly parochial. On the society page, buried below dozens of similar items, was a brief account of a "dancing party," whose attendees included two unmarried 20-somethings who may have first met at that very party -- Edith Farnsworth and Blagden Hazlehurst.
Mom and Dad.