Sunday, March 2, 2014

What was it like before the internet? Remember the Lou Grant Show

Forget what it was like before the Internet. The Lou Grant Show focused on reporters/photographers/editors on the Los Angeles Tribune and shows what it was like. No computers, no cellphones and the competition was the 10 o'clock evening news.

I happened to find MTV's You Tube channel and discovered three years of Lou Grant. I was always thankful that the photographer "Animal" used a Domke Bag. Good advertising, but I only watched a couple of episodes and am now catching up. Brings back a lot of memories.

Memories of how departments competed against each other, reminded me of when I heard about the "diversity" training at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram I wanted to talk about how the Sports department needed to talk with the Photo Department and then team up with the Engraving department to get the best coverage. But that wasn't what they wanted to talk about.

I find it interesting how Ed Asner's Lou Grant was hired by an old friend who had worked with him before and how he had worked at numerous papers across the country. He had been working at the San Francisco Call-Bulletin and when it folded he went into television. I like how he wanted to return to newspapers. As the new city editor he was excited about really getting back to journalism as their new city editor. (He was going to be the third city editor they'd hired in one year!?) He was hired because his old friend was the managing editor.

But they had to get the publisher's approval. The managing editor didn't want to stick his neck out, Always wanting the publish to give the final ok, and take the blame if it didn't work out. It's interesting how the series rotates around the publisher, and fortunate how the publisher sticks her neck out and supports the city editor. Watching the series brings back memories.

It's interesting how news is covered in the newspaper before the Internet. They found a 75 year old judge affected by "senior moments." Napping during the trials, handing down maximum sentence and never calling for a retrial. The program shows how the team worked to get evidence and verify the facts. The judge went to the publisher and threatened to sue. Court employees protected the judge, they couldn't get any real proof. But in the research they managed to convince the judge that he needed to retire. The store ran inside, not on the front page, how for the first time this judge had granted a retrial. End of story.

But it was interesting seeing how the publisher who was friends with the judge had supported the newsroom. Risk being sued, but favoring getting to the truth.

It is interesting seeing these shows today, my how news has changed. No longer waiting to get all the facts and talking to all sides of the story. A team of reporters worked to get various parts and put the whole story together. A story that never gets published.

I watched a couple of episodes focusing on veteran reporters. One where the police reporter was covering up a story, an was also an alcoholics (aren't all newspaper persons). Ends up motivating the reporter to write a personal story on how he covers the police, a story Grant wants to run on the front page, but the publisher thinks is too soft. Not news and should run inside.

Story about NCAA investigating winning Los Angeles university football program is blocked by the sports department and their nationally syndicated columnist because they feared losing readers. But they made it a news story and what they feared happened. Bomb scares, canceled subscriptions and advertisers protesting. The show ends with the celebrity columnist realizing that some of his best know columns had been about losers, unfortunate events, missed shots, etc. The shows never get to the story they work on during the show. Ending only with how the staff member has been affected.

But the Lou Grant Shows do capture the time in journalism when it was daily newspaper and television. No cable. Newspapers were the only way to get the local news, sports, grocery ads and the front page was where editors picked what they felt was the most important.

I also liked the intro to the series. The first year they show a tree being chopped down, turned into paper, then printed and ending up used in the bird cage for the parakeet to poop on. Later episodes focused on stars, but show the newspaper being tossed in the morning and landing in a puddle or on the roof.

Those were the days. . .

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