From Dec. 30, 1953, here’s what was regularly billed as “another heartwarming story of a country newspaper and its friendly editor.”
The series is “Rogers of the Gazette,” starring Will Rogers Jr. This episode starts with the editor giving a perhaps too-inspiring speech about journalism at the local high school:
“A newspaper does more than just print the news that’s turned into it. It has to go out and dig for stories and develop them. That’s why things like freedom of speech and responsibility to truth come to mean something to us.
“And we learn to fight for those principles. And in a way, that’s what journalism is, a fight. But it’s a good fight and a good profession and that’s why we love it.”
The Investigative_Reporters episode has more newspaper jargon, more suspense and more action than most “Rogers of the Press” episodes, along with lessons in reporting and newspaper economics.
The reporters mentioned in the title are high school students, twin sisters who start asking nosy questions around town, and telling people they are writing for Rogers’ paper. He complains to his assistant:
“Those kids have descended on this town like a plague of locusts. They managed to work their way into every nook and corner from the mayor’s office to the back room at Hogan’s Grill.
“You know what they asked Mayor Berkeley? How much graft he made on that West Side paving contract! He’s ready to run me out of town…”
Meanwhile, Rogers’ has spent his available cash on a new Linotype and is facing trouble meeting a payment on his building’s lease, and his landlord is one of the local residents the twins are “investigating.”
As a result, the editor also gets to deliver speeches on the right to privacy and the difference between big city newspapers and his community weekly. It turns out Rogers’ speech wasn’t the sisters’ only inspiration about being reporters:
“We’ve seen it in the movies,” the girls tell him, before turning their attention to crime reporting.
For more about the role of movies in shaping people’s perceptions of the press, see the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture project at USC.
Rogers’ quiet town of Elyria has a lot in common with Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, if you take off sheriff Andy’s badge and replace it with an old-time editor’s green eyeshade and sleeve garters.
If you enjoy that New Year episode, feel free to back up a couple of weeks for two Christmas editions, also from 1953:
For more episodes, see the Internet Archive Rogers of the Gazette page.
Footnote: In real-life Will Rogers Jr. actually was in the newspaper business, but not in the mythical town of Elyria. (There are communities by that name — in Ohio and Kansas, at least — but I suspect listeners were supposed to make an association between Rogers’ Elyria Gazette and legendary country-editor William Allen White’s Emporia Gazette.) Rogers, son of the even more famous humorist, studied journalism at Stanford University and was publisher of the Beverly Hills Citizen between his careers in acting and politics, and his World War II military service. Later, he was the host of “The CBS Morning News” from 1957 to 1958. See his obituary for details, but not until next year. Reading obits — even of good and happy lives — may not be the most upbeat way to spend New Year’s Eve.