On Topic: Back to the future with New Year's resolutions

  • Photo

Elizabeth Lane, magazine writer: “Some people say yes and some people say no.”

Inquiring man: “But what do you say?”

Elizabeth Lane: “Oh, I’m inclined to agree with them.”

I almost missed the deadline for New Year’s resolutions. But, you know, journalists are pretty famous for missing deadlines.

Resolutions are born of hope for the future predicated on mistakes and/or omissions of the past. And 2012 was a mixed year for the business of journalism.

For one thing, the Newspaper Association of America reported advertising revenues were down by some 5.1 percent for 2012’s third quarter. While that tally was better than its two preceding quarters, advertising has shrunk for 26 consecutive quarters.

On the other hand, the NAA also noted that digital advertising was up 3.6 percent in that same quarter. (See what I mean about optimism?)

Leonard Pitts Jr., the Miami Herald writer whose columns appear in The Gazette, complained a few months ago that digital income isn’t enough to compensate for print hemorrhaging. He specifically blamed the years-ago notion to shovel content onto the Internet free of charge on English majors who, he wrote, knew nothing of how to run the business.

(As a former English major, I took umbrage at this and wrote to tell Mr. Pitts so. He has yet to reply, but I’m hopeful.)

Meanwhile, we appear to be witnessing a decline in hearty souls willing to enter the profession.

Lyle Muller, former editor of The Gazette and now executive director of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, mentioned this a few weeks ago: He hears from journalism educators that many parents discourage their college-aged children from going into the field because it’s perceived as a dead-end career.

All of which, to my mind, is wrong-headed.

It’s like “Christmas in Connecticut,” which, like New Year’s resolutions, makes the rounds this time of year.

One take-away from this very funny 1945 movie is to note how just about every character is a trickster.

The protagonist, Elizabeth Lane (played by Barbara Stanwyck), is a nationally popular magazine writer who enthralls readers with tales of how she prepares bountiful meals for her husband and child on their bucolic Connecticut farm. Her features sing such fluff as “the charms of watching an attractive woman … preparing flapjacks.”

But in fact, Lane lives in a Manhattan apartment building and possesses no husband, child nor farm. Her cooking skills are nonexistent. (Don’t bother to learn now, her restaurateur uncle advises — it would ruin your writing.)

Unacceptable behavior in real life, to be certain. The plot takes off when her unwitting publisher decrees she take in a just-returned war hero during the holidays.

The lesson I prefer to learn from this story is how Lane, her editor (who’s also worried about losing his job if the ruse is discovered) and other city folk band together to make this Connecticut fantasy a reality — at least for a few days, and until Lane and her sailor find their romantic footing.

They determine what’s needed, then they figure out how to deliver. And at the end of the day, the truth wills out.

So call me an optimist.

Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.