Walter Hussman has just been named Editor & Publisher's publisher of the year for good reason. Defying the conventional wisdom in this business, he's been offering readers more rather than less. He even refuses to follow the trend elsewhere and give away the paper's content on the Web. Instead, he treats it as a quality product well worth the modest price.
There aren't many newspapers like this one left: a solid, old-fashioned paper of record that gives its readers substance, not glitz. And strictly separates news from opinion. The conventional, self-defeating trend in this business has been to react to hard times by cutting back on the quality of the product, which only drives more readers away.
Not long ago one media whiz suggested that papers abandon their editorial pages altogether: Just turn 'em all into blogs in the latest electronic fashion.
In response, a respected old-timer named Frank Partsch, the retired editorial page editor of the Omaha World Herald, noted that there are still some editorial pages "that preserve the editorial qualities that made the institutional editorial the soul of the newspaper, the place where editorial readers expect to find clear thinking, elegant writing and, yes, occasional helpings of personal quirkiness and color. Maybe, rather than relinquishing the practices that contributed so much to the idea that a good newspaper has a soul, we should be trying to resuscitate them."
Second the motion, Mister Frank.
At another time when the country's newspaper editors had a bad case of the blues, one of the greats - the late Grover C. Hall Jr. of the old Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama - took a different tack. He came back from a convention of the National Conference of Editorial Writers to report that most of us seemed "tired and unhappy."
Grover Hall couldn't understand the air of gloom that hung over his colleagues. And in an editorial titled "Dull Gulls," an editorial that still hangs on my office wall, he asked: "What's the matter with 'em anyway? - they've got the grandest job in the world."