Have always been a Sun not an Evening Sun man, I...


June 01, 1995|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

THOUGH I have always been a Sun not an Evening Sun man, I will mourn its passing a lot.

I have written for it. Not only recently, after the editorial page staffs were merged, but in the dim, distant past when the two papers had almost exactly opposite personalities. For example, I remember with pride an interview with a Playboy bunny in Detroit who was running for public office.

Sun editors were not amused, but Brad Jacobs, editor of The Evening Sun editorial page, snapped it up and ran it -- with a photo yet (hers, not mine).

Last Monday I promised to link Spiro Agnew to the demise of The Evening Sun. Agnew loathed both of the Sunpapers. He was especially resentful of what happened when he was selected to be Richard Nixon's running mate at the 1968 Republican national convention in Miami Beach. Agnew was largely unknown. Reporters from around the nation got their first impression of him by rushing to the Sunpapers' convention bureau seeking the scoop.

There they read hot off the presses Brad Jacob's skeptical Evening Sun column, headlined "Guess Who's the Other One?" (A play on Nixon's campaign slogan, "Nixon's the One.") And you know what they say about first impressions.

A year later, Agnew got to do what many a politician dreams of doing. He attacked the press head on, in two major speeches. The first criticized the television networks and the second newspapers. The speech writer was Pat Buchanan, soon to be a newspaper and television star himself, but there is no doubt Agnew believed what he said.

So I imagine that he is undisturbed by the demise of The Evening Sun. But his attack did not, as someone once suggested, lead to the long, slow death of afternoon newspapers in large metropolitan areas. Something else associated with Agnew did. Suburbanization.

Agnew was the first national leader who was a product of the great post-war migration of the middle class and working class out beyond the city limits. Eventually so many moved so far out that getting an afternoon paper to them with late-breaking news became impossible. Broadcast news, with much later deadlines (if less understanding of what to do with them), started to replace papers like The Evening Sun as an after-work habit.

It was a long, hard fight. The Evening Sun may have lost, but it hung in there longer than many.

* * * * *

I will soon have undergone two of the saddest experiences of newspaper men and newspaper women of my generation. The sale of a paper to an out-of-town owner. And the cessation of publication.

I joked here when the first happened that all the old familiar by-lines would still be around, because "the slaves go with the plantation." This time some slaves may be let go. Pray not many, Readers, for their sake and yours.

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