Letter to the Editor: Reader weighs in on newspapers

Published 5:53 am Wednesday, January 15, 2020

To the Editor:

I enjoyed reading John Railey’s tribute to his late mother and their shared interest in newspapers. While I liked his optimism about the future of newspapers, it seems a little too hopeful. Over the last 15 years, several thousand newspapers have stopped their presses and many more cut their staffs.

I, too, love to be able to hold the printed page in my hand and read or re-read at my leisure. I may be prejudiced as I was a journalist myself for several Virginia newspapers – now all shuttered but one.

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In 1948, I can still see my late husband, Paul Muse, with a razor blade in hand, change the newspaper’s headline from “Dewey Wins” to “Truman Wins”!  When the newspaper was “put to bed” that night Tom Dewey had seemed to win but then Harry S. Truman won in an upset by morning with the final tally after all the late votes were counted. Many newspapers had made this mistake.

The newspaper was the Manassas Messenger and was sold by Ben Muse to its competition the Journal Messenger. The papers combined and have since ceased. My husband and I left to become reporters on the daily newspaper The Free-Lance Star in Fredericksburg, Va.

As “society editor” I remember being chided by my editor for placing a picture of an African-American bride “above the fold” of the paper. I was told to place such events on the bottom of the page next time. That was the 1950s.

At least one time at the paper I almost got to say “Stop the presses!” The year was 1963 and on this day I was alone in the newsroom. Urgent bells rang loudly on the AP wire machine so I pulled the bulletin from the machine. Running to the publisher I yelled “The President has been shot!” “The President of what,” he said. “JFK” I replied. But since the paper published early in the afternoon it was too late to reprint as I recall.

After many years at the Star we had the opportunity to run a tiny weekly, the Potomac News in Prince William County, Va.  Under my husband’s leadership it became a prize-winning daily.  It was years later sold to a chain and later still merged with other papers – all now gone. It’s the site, now, of a large apartment complex called the Messenger. Paul and his father Ben might be proud – at least the name survives.

But I wish the best to The Coastland Times with its new format and interesting articles.

Marilyn Muse-Shapiro

Manteo, NC

P.S. My son just told me not to send this in because nobody reads newspapers anymore!