Welcome to Newspaper Days

This photograph takes you inside the newsroom of the Dallas Times Herald. It’s late evening on November 22, 1963. Only blocks away from Herald Square a few hours earlier, a president of the United States had been assassinated. The Times Herald, heretofore an afternoon newspaper of no particular distinction, was beginning its moment of greatness. In the days and weeks to follow, its small but gifted reporting staff would document this terrible event and its aftermath with flair and professionalism. I know this to be so, because I was reading the Times Herald every day. And I knew after that weekend I wanted to work for that paper and meet the people who had made it, if only briefly, bigger than the sum of its parts.

In the photo, that’s city editor Ken Smart standing up, in the white shirt and wearing glasses. Reporter Ruth Ayres is talking on the phone. It had not been a normal day. The Times Herald published three extra street-sale editions after the assassination, updating its readers as events unfolded. Now it’s evening, but nobody is going home because there is tomorrow’s Saturday edition to report and write and edit and put on press by about 9 a.m. Then there was the big Sunday morning edition. Whatever had been prepared to this point would be thrown out, replaced by breaking news. Take a look at the people in this scene. Never in their lives, before or after, would they be thrust into an event to rival November 22, 1963.

For 11 years, starting at age 16, I was a newspaper reporter. I started at the Daily News-Telegram of Sulphur Springs, Tex., whose circulation of some 1,700 at the time my father bought it in 1951 made it one of the smallest dailies in Texas, if not the U.S. I ended up at the Chicago Sun-Times, one of the nation’s largest daily newspapers and in my opinion, one of the best to work for. I met many newspaper reporters I admired, plus a couple I did not. And yes, I had fun.

Now I have five adult children and four grandchildren, plus my dear second wife. None of them has the faintest idea what I did those 11 years. So this blog is my way to explain to them, and to you if you’re willing, what life was like 40 and 50 years ago in the newspaper business.

I thought then that newspapers would be around forever. Now I’m not so sure. In May of 2017, my family sold the News-Telegram (its name shortened along the way) to a newspaper chain out of Galveston. We could no longer keep it profitable, so it was time for someone else to try.

Enjoy my stories, and please comment on them if you like or add your own tales. When you participate in my blog, you make it better.

Fred W. Frailey

May 1, 2017