For many years we had the pleasure of putting out a weekly newspaper for as many as 42 livestock auction markets across the country. That’s 42 different newspapers every week! (Actually what we did was change the front and back page and the rest of the newspaper was the same.) On the back of each market’s edition we’d print their sale report, representative sales and ads for upcoming special sales.
Fax machines weren’t in widespread use when we started so after every weekly sale someone at the auction had to call in all the copy and then some very capable ladies in Norfolk, Nebraska and Albuquerque, New Mexico, listened to the tapes that came in every night and wrote up each market’s back page. They especially dreaded the sale report from the El Paso market because the Spanish names were hard to spell and the person on the phone had a deep accent that was difficult to understand.
What amazed me all those years was that the markets NEVER took a shot or said something bad about their competitors. And keep in mind, auction market owners are amongst the most competitive people on earth. Even today, as I receive the many small newspapers across the country that carry my column I’m amazed that they never speak ill of their competitors. It’s quite honorable really, especially when you compare the smaller newspapers with their big city brethren. Only recently I read in a metropolitan newspaper where the publisher editorialized that the best writing in his competitor’s newspaper was in the letters to the editor.
The newspaper industry has a long history of not being very nice to one another. Way back in 1889 the editor of the Cimarron Jacksonian wrote of his competitor, “That lop-eared, lantern jawed half bred and half born whiskey soaked pox eaten pup who pretends to edit that worthless wad of subdued outhouse fodder known as the Ingalls Messenger.” You just don’t find good writing like that these days, do you?
Ink stained wretches in the old days had all the morals and ethics of a street gang. When a feud broke out between the New York Post and the New York Sun the Post called the Sun a “Yellow Dog.” The Sun responded by saying that they would continue to have the attitude of a dog to any Post.
Sometimes if a newspaper didn’t have a competitor they would make up one just to have someone to criticize, as was the case of the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, the paper that once carried Mark Twain’s byline. They created the fictitious Wabuska Mangler out of thin air just to pick fights with.
Many of my predecessors were as honest as a South American election. The editor in the Gold Rush town of Lundy, California, was called “Lying Jim Townsend.” Not the best byline for a newspaper editor, I’ll admit. Lying Jim’s paper, the Homer Mining Index, left more big headlines behind than a corduroy pillow and they were all for the purpose of attracting miners and speculators to the area so that Jim might profit. He used his paper to push companies in which he owned stock and sent his newspaper abroad so that rich Englishman would invest in Lundy mining companies. His paper carried ads for three big grocery stores, two banks, several saloons, clothing stores and undertaking establishments. None of which existed. He printed railroad timetables even though there was no train service and clipped stories from the social pages of San Francisco newspapers and reprinted them as if they had happened in Lundy.
In light of all this history I’m proud to say that our newspapers never reached to such depths. In fact, the only time I can remember one of our papers saying something negative about someone was when they said it about themselves. One of our gals once transposed one auction market’s report so that it contained the following sentence: “We will continue to have sales semi-weakly throughout the summer.” Oops!
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