In 1996 I noticed that newspapers were infatuated with the Internet (then capitalized). Anything about this newfangled invention made the paper. I had just written my first novel, Keeping Private Idaho. As a promotional, dare I say “stunt,” I put it out on the internet as the first serialized novel to appear there. It didn’t get much notice on the worldwide web, but it got me a front-page story in the Idaho Statesman.
So, there was a newspaper publicizing what could have—but thankfully has not yet—led to its demise.
The Statesman was equally eager to promote the modern invention of radio. They happily printed everything about the new stations as they came on the air, giving them ample free advertising. The stations did eventually start buying a lot of advertising, too.
Recently I ran across a perfect example of this infatuation with a medium that was challenging the supremacy of newspapers.
On the 6th of February, 1936, the Idaho Statesman reported than Douglas Van Vlack, a “bushy-haired Tacoman,” was convicted of murdering his former wife. That story may be worth telling another time, but what caught my attention was this paragraph:
“Immediately after The Statesman received the Associated Press flash that Van Vlack had been found guilty the news was phoned to radio station KIDO and the verdict was on the air only a few seconds later.”
So nice of them. They clearly didn’t view a radio station as competition at that point.
The next paragraph underlined the timely utility of radio broadcasting by telling readers another way The Statesman got the word out.
“The first printed word of the verdict was also given out by The Statesman in the form of bulletins pasted on windows in the downtown district. The first bulletin was off the press within two minutes after the first flash.”
That broadcasting was at the dawning of new age that would forever change the media landscape might not have sunk in. Similarly, the Statesman and other papers have reported on the widespread reach of television, the internet, Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, et al. In 1936 they could not have imagined that those bulletins they pasted to the window would one day be sent to the smartphones of readers as even newspapers embraced digital technology.