Some things never change


The advent of technology has certainly changed a thing or two during my 20-year career in the newspaper business.

When I joined the ranks as a cub reporter for my hometown newspaper back in northeast Oklahoma, we had only just begun designing the pages with computers and even then, we printed stories out and manually pasted them onto a larger sheet of paper (with actual glue).

We had an actual darkroom and all of our photos were shot with actual black and white film.

Once we developed the photos (which was remarkably similar to the process of cooking methamphetamines, we would have to manually add a halftone dot pattern to them, then shoot negatives of the positive images and start all over again with new negatives.

It was a tiring process and it severely hampered our efforts to include lots of photographs in each newspaper – and forget about them being in color. Not only was it too expensive, but it was four times the work with no guarantee of quality.

Nowadays, we have color on nearly every page in the newspaper and include pages and pages of beautiful, full-color photography – all for a fraction of the cost.

But despite all of the changes related to technology, today’s newspaper is essentially the same as it was 100 years ago.

Newsprint and ink. Ink and newsprint. Words, words, and more words.

And for more than a century, community newspapers like ours have been publishing Santa letters.

In fact, one of my earliest responsibilities at my first newspaper job at The Pryor (Okla.) Daily Times was to type up letters to Santa Claus that area school children had written.

How long ago was that?

Tickle Me Elmo would have been the toy du jour that year and some dude named Clinton was in the White House.

I don’t know how many letters I typed that year, but it would have been in the hundreds. And it was a hoot.

Not only do these letters create a cute snapshot of school children for parents, they also provide a little dose of misspelled compassion for the rest of our readers.

Take this gem, for example:

“My name is Steven and my wish for Christis a dron, a UFO, a car. My wish for the wurld is four no more bulling and no more crim. This is what I want for Chrismas.”

This year, the editorial staff of The Hattiesburg Post and our sister newspapers, The Lamar Times and The Petal News proudly typed up more than 1,000 letters from area second graders from nearly every school in our coverage area including Baxterville, Hattiesburg (Thames, Rowan, and Woodley schools), Lumberton, Oak Grove (Longleaf and Oak Grove Lower Elementary), Petal Primary, Purvis Lower Elementary, Sacred Heart, and  Sumrall Elementary.

With the advent of technology, things will continue to change, but here’s hoping newspapers like ours always find room in their pages for letters from children like Steven and Sally and Andrew and Ally.

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them. And neither would our newspapers.


David Gustafson is the not-so-mild-mannered editor/publisher of The Hattiesburg Post, The Lamar Times, and The Petal News.