Editorial....31st December, 2019
Working for a local newspaper presents a quandary when you stop and think about it: what news should be reported and how?
Some news — events that affect the whole community a paper serves, or incidents that everyone is talking about — are easy. Others are harder. We had a reporter who had an existential crisis about the futility of some elements of his work, such as club events. His story would be read by everyone who’d been there, but as they’d been there, why did they need to read about it and why did he need to write about it? (For the historical record, obviously). Some things are reported because we’ve always done them, others not because we never have. As with everything, none of this is new, so I was rather delighted to discover the following from 1922; as we pass into a new decade, close to a century ago. It’s doubly good because the writer is supporting something close to my own heart (hence our varied album reviews).
Happy new year — and make sure you listen to lots of music!
A few months back I was present at a conversation between the editor of a local paper and a friend whom I will describe as a musical missionary.
The theme under discussion was the value of music, not the mere chronicling of local musical events as affording material for copy, and although the case for music was argued cogently and eloquently, our editor would have none of it. He said that his was a small paper and he got so much local news that he had no space left for an extra, a non-essential luxury.
It was not ‘til some time afterwards that I began to realise the weakness of the defence — not, in fact, ‘til it became part of my daily work to look through a number of papers that reached me from all quarters of the country.
I found it fascinating, firstly to discover how little space music generally obtained, and secondly to find out in what consisted this abundance of local news for the sake of which music must, in many quarters, be neglected as a thing of no moment, an uninteresting — perhaps a troublesome — superfluity.
It is obviously difficult for anyone in whom musical leanings are strong to come to a wholly unprejudiced conclusion in such a case. Yet I submit that, quite apart from the relative values of music and local news, a great deal of the latter is devoted to small beer chronicles of trivial events that have no remote connection with the lives of normal readers.
A good deal of space, for instance, has been devoted recently to the fate of an errand boy who swallowed 15 strychnine pills. To what end? People who are so ignorant as not to know that strychnine in large quantities is dangerous are probably too stupid or too illiterate to gather that piece of knowledge from newspapers.
What was the useful purpose served by a paragraph I saw the other day under the heading “Sudden Death of a Baker”? No doubt the baker’s friends and relatives were gratified by an expression of sympathy but in this case the journal served the needs of a town of many thousands and the percentage of them likely to be affected by this piece of “news” must have been infinitesimal.
I will only ask what useful purpose can possibly be gained by such a piece of news as this, which I have just read in a paper of repute: “The snow storm that appeared to be threatening on Wednesday morning did not materialise.” It is no good blaming the papers. It is ourselves we must blame, for as long as the journalist believes and has reason to believe that we like this sort of thing, so long shall we get it.
On the other hand, if he suspects that there is a demand for musical copy which will interest the layman, he will be quick to satisfy it.
At present, he suspects musical articles, and not without reason.
Far too many of them are written by musicians for musicians. The ordinary reader cares not one iota for learned disquisitions on the evolution of the sonata. He may want to hear sonatas and enjoy them, but he is not interested in dissecting them to see how they are made.
In the same way, the ordinary reader is bored to tears by protracted squabbles as to the merits of rival schools and rival composers. Such squabbles do not advance the cause of music one inch. To the few they may be interesting in the sense that a dog fight is interesting, but to the many they are unutterably wearisome and tedious.
The trouble is that so many people are interested in music without realising the fact. They have forgotten that music enters into their lives from the cradle to the grave, from the first moment of the morning to the time that they go to sleep o’ nights.
Many of us, though unconscious of it at the time, are christened to music; many more are married to music; and music enters into practically every funeral, our own, included, we have to attend.
We take our pleasures to music, whether at theatre or cinema, sports gathering or football match. Why, it was only the other day that I read an account of New Year’s Eve festivities where the chief sub-heading was “Music Everywhere.” Doctors have recently told us that we should eat to music and others of their fraternity — all honour to them — are daily discovering how music may be made the safest and surest cure for the maladies we are heirs to.
How does a mother soothe a fretful or quieten a restless infant? There is not one of us who, in our infancy, has not been put to sleep or lulled in moments of pain by music.
Unconsciously, involuntarily, each one of us uses music as a stimulant, from the errand boy whistling on his rounds, to the soldier who finds in it his greatest inspiration to battle.