Stories lost in the anals of memory [UPDATED]Published 4:13am Monday, July 29, 2013 Updated 6:20am Monday, July 29, 2013
Newspapers are often described as being recorders of history in a hurry.
As an industry where the media tweets, uploads, televises and then throws away stories in a 24-hour period, and as a former newspaper reporter and editor and current publisher person who has a get-it-done-in-a-hurry personality, I can say that statement rings true.
As part of The Journal’s 140th anniversary, and my 20th year at The Journal, I was going to detail all of the really cool stories I have written or edited over the years — highlights of my career, if you will.
Little did I realize how difficult the task would be.
In my estimation, I have either written or edited some 10,000 stories in my career. To try to slog through all of them, categorize them, and then rank them according to interest or importance is virtually impossible — at least for a type A, inpatient person I would qualify myself as.
Every once in a while, I’ll get an email from someone looking for us to find, copy and send them a story from, say, the 1940s about a long-lost uncle.
My response is always, “If you know the exact date, we’ll get it for you. Otherwise, you’ll have to call the museum for help.”
The reason: Very rarely is anyone’s memory good enough to nail down the correct year — much less the month or day — that the story happened.
For example, I asked a co-worker if she remembered when Northwest Airlink offered air service from Fergus Falls to Minneapolis.
She thought it was in the 1980s sometime. In reality, it was 1994, based on a story I found (and wrote.)
In other words, if someone wanted us to look for a particular story that required us to look through 10 years of newspapers to find, even if it only took five seconds to browse each day’s paper (and that’s generously quick), that’s potentially four hours of looking.
I always admire those types who have such patience.
It was interesting browsing through all the stories I have written and photos I have taken over the years. Some, I remember vividly. The 1995 Otter boys basketball team’s section championship game loss to Rocori. After a season of getting to know the players, that disappointing loss still burned in my brain.
There was the time I worked at the Monticello Times and my assignment was to interview the first local baby of the new year, and it turned out the mother was 15.
I still remember asking her if she had her own apartment, and she told me her age. My heart sank, and still does. That kid is now 20, and his mom is only 35. I really hope things turned out for that kid, but I have my doubts.
Browsing our archives, however, demonstrated that for all the memorable stories, there are hundreds, thousands I forgot about.
For some, reading the stories and looking at the photos sparked the memory.
For others, my memory couldn’t be jarred. I had even forgotten about interviews with people back then who are now good friends of mine.
It kind of reminded me of my high school reunion. Out of every 10 people who I saw, two were friends of mine, one was an enemy, and as far as the other seven, I had to rub my chin and say, “I guess I remember you???”
There are many who are extremely concerned about the negative effect media coverage will have on their lives. To that I say the effect might be huge today. A year, five years, a decade, and 20 years from now — unless it was a story of global historical significance — such coverage will have no effect.
Want proof? I still get asked if I’m the sports editor. Just to confirm, I quit that job in about 1996.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org