Let’s say you’re a budding reporter and your city editor sends you out on your beat. “Come back with a good story,” is probably what you would expect him to say, right?
In the 1970s — and for many years before that — City Editor Harold Slater would send us reporters out with that understanding, as well as an additional request: “Oh, and remember, we need some shorts, too.”
Shorts? Are you kidding? How am I going to get a byline out of shorts? Or build a reputation? Will they help me get a raise?
No, but they were necessary to help put together the “Local Brevities.” Filled with one-paragraph items ranging from hospital admissions and DWI arrests to job promotions and visits from relatives, the “Brevities” column consistently was cited by readers as one of their favorite parts of the paper.
Oh, yes. They drew the highest ad rate, too. That’s important to a newspaper’s bottom line.
“Businesses liked them because everyone read the ‘Brevities’ and they’d get great exposure,” Marty Novak, retired News-Press ad executive, said of the ads that peppered the column.
“You’d see something like ‘Beef burgers tonight at D&G, adv.’ Or ‘Sale on Johnny Walker Red, Magoon’s, adv.’ You could get your message across in a few words.”
A few words that turned into “Brevities” are what Bill Scott would bring back to the newsroom most days — along with big stories, too — and Slater couldn’t be happier.
“In the 1970s I covered the Downtown area, things like Urban Renewal, Hotel Robidoux and the Chamber of Commerce,” said Scott, who started on the sports desk in the 1950s and wound up as city editor some 30 years later.
“I always thought the ‘Brevities’ were interesting. I recall one where a boy was taken to the hospital for drinking bleach, and of course, his name and address were given. We used to release all that information.
“Another time, firemen were called to rescue a cat from a tree. Then you’d get a guy promoted in his job. It was a grab-bag.”
Scott recalls that the “Brevities” kind of “faded away” in the late 1980s. The hospitals changed their policies and generally would release information only on births — and those were given their own column in the paper. Other new columns included police briefs and business briefs, which also stole shorts from the “Brevities.”
“Most of the items still made the paper, just under different headings,” he added.
For those of you too young to remember, or new to town, here are some bona-fide “Local Brevities,” plucked from different years:
Paul J. Fisher, Clarksdale, Mo., entered Mercy Hospital this morning for treatment of a severe cold. His condition is satisfactory.
Mr. and Mrs. Chester Jones, 6222 S. Third St., are the parents of a son born yesterday at Missouri Methodist Hospital.
V.M Robinson has returned. – Adv.
Lettie Roark, 2227 Oak St., reported to police the theft of three geese from her yard. The geese were valued at $10.
Mr. and Mrs. John E. Hoover, of Chambersburg, Pa., returned to their home yesterday after a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Cowgill, 2209 Mitchell Ave.
You just can’t afford to buy your new fur coat until you see our prices. The Princess. – Adv.
Fred O. Street, manager of the claims department of the Division of Employment Security, returned to work yesterday after a 10-day vacation in Colorado.
Miss Catherine Shea went to St. Louis today to attend the funeral tomorrow of Mrs. George Kay, who died at Maplewood. Mrs. Kay was the sister of Miss Shea’s father, the late Martin Shea.
There you go, a nice mix of items. Which was always the point