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Goin’ extinct

Citizen Staff Writer

Many of us now know how the dodo bird felt.

Journalists are a dying breed; newspapers a dying entity.

The loss is grave and great. It’s also hitting very hard, considering why I picked the field in the first place.

I went into journalism because I wanted to see my name in print. But the reason I continued goes way beyond the byline.

It goes beyond covering the annual prairie chicken festival in Milnesand, N.M.; investigating strange bubbles in a river in Brookings, Ore.; and the intolerable school board or county government meetings usually just about anywhere.

It goes beyond a job and becomes a way of life.

The uncertain fate of the Tucson Citizen and the folding of dozens of other papers across the globe threaten to change the world forever.

What will we now use to line our bird cages, make little sailor hats or put down to save our carpet when we paint our walls bright red?

The origins of newspapers can be traced as far back as Renaissance Europe, when folks passed around handwritten newsletters, according to the Web site Historicpages.com.

The first printed pages came into play in Germany in the 1400s, with editions known as broadsheets or broadsides.

Their headlines often included stuff more sensational than today’s tabloids trumpeting alien pet abductions or the birth of bat boy.

Some of the early papers warned about a sadistic dude in Transylvania who was mean to all the Germans. You may recognize his name, Vlad Tsepes Drakul, as he became the basis for the infamous Count Dracula.

Newspapers have long been the place to unearth such glorious nuggets of information.

Pages have been saved or framed, those that proclaim the fall of the Twin Towers, the first man on the moon, the death of JFK.

Many now-famous folks got their start as newspaper delivery boys: Bob Hope, Isaac Asimov, John Wayne.

Newspapers have touched, shaped, comforted, enraged, and run some kick-butt crossword puzzles.

They have also offered gainful employment for us folks who have the urge to dig up dirt on an issue or hook up perky prose about a Tucson dog who keeps making it into the Westminster Kennel Club’s Dog Show.

Not all of it is has been easy. People don’t call you back. Others call, yelling, every day. Some look at journalists as a notch below used-car salesmen or, worse yet, a notch below lawyers.

I once introduced myself as a reporter only to have someone say, “I’m sorry.” This was before newspapers began going out of business at an alarming speed.

My car was egged in high school after I wrote a column poking fun at homecoming court.

I was actually shunned in Tucumcari, N.M., when I penned a piece about a bloody Santa Claus holiday display that stood in a New York yard beside a beheaded Barbie doll.

What other job could be so much fun?

I’ve gotten pen pals from prison, e-mails from a guy who claimed to be Telly Savalas’ cousin and warm notes that simply said “Thank you.”

All this goes way, way beyond the byline.

Some of us at the Citizen are torn between riding the waves of uncertainty and diving into another field altogether.

We fear this could be our final full-fledged journalism job.

Sure, even if the Citizen does go under, we could try to chase what slim reporting or editing opportunities pop up in Woods Hole, Mass., but there’s no guarantee those will last long, either.

The only thing that will prevail is the need for news, which will no longer be fulfilled by many longstanding publications, and our passion for the industry.

That, and the annual prairie chicken festival in Milnesand, N.M.

Ryn Gargulinski is an author, artist and poet who would greatly miss the Tucson Citizen, her co-workers and many people she met running around Tucson in the name of news. Whatever the fate of the paper, she will continue her radio segments at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM, and her art is for sale around town.

E-mail: ryndustries@hotmail.com


Newspapers have touched, shaped, comforted, enraged, and run some kick-butt crossword puzzles.

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