There was a year without the newspapers. It was the worst. There were no magic numbers for the pennant-chasing Pirates. There was no Calvin or Hobbes.
Back in the year without the newspapers all I really wanted was those magic numbers and the kid and his tiger.
Somebody tried to explain to me what was going on in Pittsburgh. It was probably one of the grandparents. After all, they were the reason I read the newspapers. I had always watched them read – in the morning then the afternoon – and so when they were done their newspapers became mine. For many years I had known the newspapers were important, but it was that year without the newspapers that I started to understand why.
The newspapers had a little bit of everything for anybody, from whatever the mayor had said to the horoscopes to the pictures of Barry Bonds’ home runs.
All of that was gone, though, in the year without the newspapers. There was a strike, and for whatever reason it had wiped out the newspapers. Sure, the television still showed the news, but those shows weren’t the same. I could not fold those shows. I could not circle words on those shows. I could not skip the advertisements on those shows.
The year without newspapers was the worst – mostly because without the newspapers it was impossible to believe I would ever know if the newspapers would return. Where would I find that story? There was somebody designated to scream the news somewhere downtown. Video of that person was shown on the TV news, and it was then that I realized how badly we needed the newspapers.
One day there was some actual news. Somebody wanted to buy one of the newspapers. If he did, at least we would have a newspaper. All I knew about this somebody was that my grandfather said he was rich. When I asked how rich I was told, “Rich enough to buy a newspaper.”
He actually had his own newspaper in Greensburg.
The thing I remember most about the year without the newspapers is that somebody tried to end it.
I am thinking about that somebody right now.
I am thinking about how he eventually brought his Tribune-Review to Pittsburgh and lived to see it become the rare newspaper that did not force layoffs or cut costs, but rather a champion of investigative journalism and – most important – a choice for regional readers that are better served for living in a two-newspaper town.
Pittsburgh is one, which is rare for a city of its size, and that is entirely because of one man.
In the coming days there will be a lot of words said about Richard Scaife. I choose to remember the ones he said at the end of each of our handful of brief conversations over the last 12 years.
“Thank you for being here,” Mr. Scaife said.
I never found the words that seemed an appropriate response because there was no place else I would rather have been.
The year without the newspapers ended for a teenage boy when he spotted his grandfather’s copy of a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review then spent the next 15 minutes simply looking at it. Eventually, that boy would read; but upon first seeing that newspaper he could only stare while surely thinking, Thank you for being here.
Rest peacefully, Mr. Scaife.
Be EXCELLENT to each other,