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Saturday, August 08 2015 09:28

Never would I have expected so many newspapers to go out of business as have in recent years. They seemed, in my youth, a permanent feature of American society, never to be abolished.

In going back to my closest experience of a big city newspaper, I recall working as a copy boy on the Boston Globe. That happened in the summer of 1948, after my freshman year in college.

The Globe was then located on Boston’s Washington Street, directly across from the Boston Post where my father served as Sunday Editor. Seeing these newspapers cheek by jowl on the same street made me think them especially important.

The Globe and Post publications were also only a few blocks away from the State House, City Hall, and the financial district.  This made it easy for the newspaper people to get together (for lunch?) with those who could provide news about business and politics.

My father got me my job by asking his friend Larry Winship, then the Globe managing editor, to take me on. Having grown up in a newspaper family, I thought it a fine opportunity, despite the unimportance of my role. 

The duties of copy boy were not what anyone would call onerous.  Along with one or two other young men (no women yet), I stood next to a metal tube designed to send typewritten pages upstairs to the composing room.

We had nothing to do with the writing itself: that had been done by reporters and reviewed by editors. In those pre-computer days, our job was simply one of transmission. 

When waiting for the editor-improved texts, we were free to talk with our fellow copy boys, observe the editorial staff up close, and listen to their conversation.  Sometimes we were deputed to go out of the building and bring back coffee for staff people.

These staff people were also free to smoke in the press room. To my amusement and dismay some of them displayed signs of unwise drinking the evening before.

Two errors during my weeks at the Globe remain a cause for regret. The first resulted from my attendance at a Red Sox night game that went into many extra innings. The boss, Larry Winship, suggested that I write a story about what it was like to have spent those long hours at Fenway Park.

I rejected the offer. And I did so because I was afraid to do it badly. 

My other mistake was going with my father to the Republican presidential convention in Philadelphia. I took time off from my job without permission, a move that Mr. Winship did not like.

So my up-close experience of the newspaper was not without problems.  Perhaps this contributed to my decision not to become a journalist.  Or, at least, not until I became a columnist decades later.

Yet, my feelings about newspapers continue strong.  I read two major papers every day and value the information and pleasure they provide, not only about my own country, state, and city, but also about world affairs and distant lives.

The journalists who cover dangerous zones have my special admiration. They risk their lives in order to help us understand the world.

I regret that so many of these brave men and women have been injured, imprisoned, and even killed in the course of their work.

The weekly newspapers, of which this is one, also support our communities.  We need to know more about what is going on in our towns and cities.

 My hope is for newspapers to survive the current economic forces against them. These publications are essential to societies; they must not be abandoned.