To the average reader, Page One of a newspaper contains the news they most need to know to get through the day. But in newspaper parlance or the world of those who have worked in the extremely underpaid and overworked world of journalism, there is only one part of Page One that truly matters. It’s called above the fold.
The expression comes from the days when papers were sold in metal boxes on a sidewalk. As the prospective customer, you decided whether or not to plunk your quarter into the slot on the box in front of you based on the headlines you were able to read through the glass and since the paper was folded all that mattered was what appeared above the fold.
Above the fold also earned its prominence through the good graces of the street-side newspaper sellers who shouted the headlines, waving the paper enticing you to buy when all you could see was the top half of Page One.
Although it seems obsolete now when so many readers get their news online, the placement of a headline is still an indication of importance just as Page 3 is better read than Page 2 because 3 is a right- hand page and the eye naturally falls on the right.
What’s the purpose of going through all this explanation which everyone over the age of 29 already knows and probably no one under that age cares?
It’s because what happens above the fold allegedly tells us the most important things we need to know about the state of our world and in recent weeks, the state of our world both here and abroad seems to lie somewhere between dismal and disturbed.
If we care, if we feel emotion when we read, then what we have been reading of late cannot help but upset us, sadden us, depress us. Take a typical Tribune of last week, headlines like 5 People Missing on East End, Man Found Hanging, Security Guard Gets 6 Years for Shooting…You can’t blame The Tribune or The Nassau Guardian or any editor. No editor worth his or her title is going to give above the fold status to a story about a child earning good grades or a couple saying their vows, unless they are a Tinseltown celeb duo overcoming some scandalous titillating behaviour and currently vowing to be good for the foreseeable future until their true inner selves reemerge and their new scandalous behaviour grabs above the fold placement.
It’s not just in The Bahamas nor because of the freshness of monster storm Dorian’s wrath and aftermath that the headlines which colour our world of news are shocking, sad, upsetting, or incite anger.
The New York Times, Sunday Times, papers around the globe carry headlines that make us worry. It is for that very reason that TV shows like Today and Good Morning America are so popular and that the most watched TV news show, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt ends with an Inspiring America segment.
We are crying out for relief. We want a happy ending. That desire never ceases and only deepens as the news grows more threatening. So here is my suggestion:
Editors, find a one-liner that delivers a sprig of humour, a pinch of wisdom or a positive thought to munch on for the day.
Place it above the fold and the rest of us weary of the must-know madness will eat it up.
Getting an advertiser to sponsor would be a snap. Bad news may be in your face every day, but a little humour could go a long way toward making all of us feel better about the world around us.
Dog flea alley
With increasing talk of changing street names to honour those whose deserve to be remembered even if being caught in traffic seems an unlikely place to do so, please never change the name of Dog Flea Alley.
It’s the most photographed street sign in The Bahamas and it’s no wonder.
What I want to know is who gave it that name so, if you know please share.
It’s just like who decided to name the road that runs between a seminary and a graveyard Lovers Lane?
In case you are not familiar with that one, it’s off Shirley Street west of Mackey near the St Matthew’s Cemetery running northward to Dowdeswell Street and what not too long ago was a religion-based institution supported by the Templeton Fund, founded by the late Sir John Templeton, a pioneer in the fund business who never lost the common touch when it came to worshipping the beauty of nature in bloom.
Not sure how he felt about an address on Lovers Lane as neither the seminary nor the cemetery seem fitting for a wedding ceremony or a romantic rendezvous.
Speaking of honorees...
It was a long and well-fought battle to get a government to declare Heroes Day to celebrate national heroes and few among us would not applaud that effort. But while we honour those and hope some are chosen for their worth and not merely their politics, I also believe we are making a drastic mistake by not emphasising Discovery Day.
We do not need to continue calling it Columbus Day. I get that. The man, not intentionally perhaps, but the man and his men and their ways decimated the Lucayan population. However, no other country in the world can claim what The Bahamas can – being the place where the New World was discovered.
If landfall was made on October 12, 1492, that day should be marked with celebrations galore.
Other destinations would be quick to recognise its value had they been the one place that occupied a singular spotlight in history.
They’d have parades and music and imagine if we did here – the gateway to the modern history and conveniently in October, a slow tourism arrival month when we could make the most of history and economic benefit. Our heroes could be honoured with a parade, with song, with a rush-out and an historic re-enactment.
Congratulations to the well-deserving heroes who were recognised on Monday at Government House with performances by the RBPF Band, all the pomp and circumstance, a goosebump-producing version of Wind Beneath My Wings by Roney Armbrister. But remembering our present-day heroes does not necessitate forgetting our past.