No matter how you look at it, it's still the news

August 04, 2012|Jake Womer

I love the classic movie channel for the personal discoveries that it allows a movie fan. Now and then, I’ll see a film I had only vaguely heard about.

That was the case recently, when I watched the 1952 movie “Park Row” about newspapers in New York in the late 19th century.

As a movie buff, I knew enough about the film’s director, Samuel Fuller, to remember how his early career as a newspaper reporter influenced his storytelling.

So if this was his homage, it promised to be interesting as a film and old-time newspaper story.

But I was immediately surprised when the movie opened by scrolling through hundreds of actual newspaper mastheads and there, halfway down, were the 1952 mastheads for The Daily Mail and The Morning Herald, the two newspapers that combined to form The Herald-Mail.

The mastheads — the name of the newspaper on top of the front page — looked exactly the same as they had as late as 2007, when The Daily Mail ceased publication.

The sight of the mastheads gave me pause to think about the history of this newspaper, which in some form or another has been around for 185 years.

And that snapped me back to the present, thinking of how much the industry has changed, not in the past 185 years, but in the past five years.

Herald-Mail reporters, photographers and editors are engaged in tasks that we didn’t imagine when we got into the business.

Photographers share far more of their photographs in online photo galleries. Free of the constraints caused by limited newspaper space, they assemble multiple photos on a single subject into packages that web users can flip through by clicking a mouse. The photo staff creates about 30 galleries per month, and that’s in addition to a catch-all gallery assembled each day by editors to allow web users to review the day in photos.

Staff photographers also record video footage of some news events. Meanwhile, today’s reporters are loaded with video equipment and armed with the knowledge of how to edit a video, usually capping it off with a voice-over narration of the story.

Editors are posting all of this content online at and themselves are concerned with keeping the website up to date with all of the wire and local news, in addition to writing and posting poll questions with which readers can immediately share their opinions.

All of this is being done while continuing to publish the daily newspaper that has been a mainstay all of these years.

What would the reporters of 1952 think if they faced this change?

I think some of them would complain about the new tasks and extra work, others would do whatever was asked of them, and still others would embrace and revel in the new storytelling tools at their disposal. But there probably would have been more shouting then than today.

And I’m not going to speculate about what the inhabitants of Fuller’s “Park Row” would think.

Jake Womer is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7594 or by email at

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