Fake News and Feuding Editors

Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady;

but a newspaper can always print a retraction.

                                                                                                       –Adlai E. Stevenson     

My March release, How the West was Wed, follows the story of two rivaling newspaper editors.  JOSIE LOCKWOOD is the successful editor of the town’s only newspaper until the very charming, very handsome BRANDON WADE moves to town to start his own newspaper. At first Josie welcomes the competition, but she soon learns that readers prefer Wade’s bold hyperbole to her more serious type of journalism.

I especially enjoyed writing about a Victorian newspaper woman. Women editors date back to colonial times, and some edited publications in the east during the first half of the nineteenth century. Still, in those early days, the newspaper business was primarily a male occupation.

This changed somewhat during the westward movement. The late eighteen-hundreds saw some 300 females editing 250 publications in eleven western states. California led the way with 129 known female editors. No doubt there were more, but some female publishers sought credibility by listing a husband’s name on a masthead.

Newspaperwomen covered everything from national and local news to household hints.

Newspapers at the time also carried what today might be called fake news. Along with their morning cup of Arbuckle’s, Victorian readers were regaled with stories of mysterious creatures, flying objects, ghosts, extraterrestrials and other strange phenomena.

It’s not hard to see why the news business would attract female interest. Having control over editorial content afforded women the opportunity to lead a crusade, promote religious and educational activities, and bring a community together. Women still didn’t have the vote, of course, but some female publishers had strong political views which they were all too glad to share with readers.

Editorial disputes like the one between Brandon and Josie were common in the Old West, but not all had such a happy ending. Sometimes things went too far.  In some instances, the feud ended in gunfire.

Most feuds, however, were carried out with a war-of-words. Rival editors prided themselves on the quality and quantity of their insults. Typesetting was a tedious job. It took less time and effort to call someone an idiot or numbskull in print than to find a gentler approach.

If editors weren’t fighting each other, they were fighting readers. Any editor printing an inflammatory story could expect to be accosted at the local saloon or challenged to a duel. Things got so bad that an editor of a Kansas newspaper wrote: “What this community needs just now is a society for the prevention of cruelty to writing men, otherwise editors.”

After one man was acquitted of killing the editor of the Leavenworth Times, the Marion County Record wrote, “That’s just the way with some juries—they think it no more harm to shoot an editor than a jack-rabbit.”

Fortunately, today’s disgruntled readers are more likely to drop a subscription than drop an editor, but one thing hasn’t changed; For more than a 150 years, the death of newspapers has been predicted.  It was once thought that the telegraph would do the ghastly deed.  Today, the Internet is taking the blame.  Whether it fully succeeds is anyone’s guess.

So, what do you think?  Are newspapers still relevant?


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Margaret Brownley
Margaret has published more than 40 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and two-time Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! She has written for a day time soap and is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.
Updated: February 18, 2018 — 9:59 am


  1. Good morning- I think newspapers are still wonderful and I enjoy reading them, but our world has changed so much. Truthfully I don’t read on-line newspapers I still love the feel of the newspaper in hand and then trying to get it folded back up correctly, that in itself can be a challenge.

    1. Hi Tonya, I still enjoy reading newspapers, too. However, I recently canceled my hometown paper because it no longer covered local news.

  2. I was never really a newspaper person. I only like the Sunday one and I will miss it when it is gone.

    1. Hi Debra, The Sunday paper used to be my favorite! I used to cut out human interest stories for possible story ideas, but most papers have done away with those. It’s really a shame.

  3. I usually get all of my news from tv and used to buy the Sunday newspaper for the coupons and puzzles. But it will be sad if print newspapers disappear.

    1. Hi Janine, I like the Sunday paper for the same reasons! Online coupons and puzzles just don’t seem as convenient.

  4. I still subscribe to the daily newspaper. I look forward to the crossword puzzles. I think older people would be sad to see the print newspaper disappear.

  5. Newspapers have changed over the years, sometimes not the depth that it use to be, but I still enjoy a newspaper.

    1. Melanie, I know what you mean about newspaper lacking depth. My local newspaper no longer hires reporters. Instead, it depends on “canned” news from syndicates. It really irritates me to open up my local newspaper and see reprints from USA Today.

  6. Our society is inundated with instant news–FB, Twitter, online news sites and of course TV. I do tend to be sceptical until I’ve checked the sources. I am a newspaper lover but the cost of a subscription is no longer in my budget so I do check online for area obituaries and local news items. I hate that continued increases have caused some newspapers to cease publication and I wonder what the future holds.

    1. Hi Connie, I’ve become skeptical, too. It’s hard to know who to trust or what to believe.

  7. Good question – I think newspapers are losing their worth, but I’m not sure they will die out completely. I love reading our local paper. I hate reading news online and won’t do it if I don’t have to.

    1. Hi Susan, I hope you’re right about newspaper not dying out completely, but I don’t see the electronic generation turning to print in the future. My grandkiddies think it’s weird that I still read newspapers.

  8. Oh, Margaret, I love the cover of your upcoming book! That is such a pretty blue and the couple is adorable. As for your question, the quality of newspapers these days is lots to be desired. The last time I tried to read an article, it was littered with typos, contradictions and mistakes. I think they’re in the last gasp of death. People prefer getting their news via the Internet, specifically Facebook, and checking facts has gone out the window. They rush to put news out because they want to be the first and it doesn’t matter is it’s true. Lord, help us all!

    Congratulations! I look forward to hearing more about How The West Was Wed! Fun, fun!

    1. Thank you, Linda, I love the cover, too.

      It’s hard for newspaper to be current these days in print. By the time I get my morning paper, the news has already been all over social media and TV, and is “old” news. It seems to me that only way newspapers can survive is to give people an experience they can’t get elsewhere.

  9. Interesting blog! I loved it. And How the West Was Wed looks great!

    As a high school student, part of our assignment was to read the New York Times every day–by our English teacher! I’ve read it ever since, but now online for just $8 a month (a real deal in my mind). It’s the digest version so no puzzles, etc., just news and op-eds. Besides well researched news, the NYT is a model of the English language well used (it’s how I learned what words to cap or lowercase in titles). So I think $8/month is a real deal.

    As for newspapers going away? In this age of so-called “fake news” decreased circulation, the NYT has greatly increased their circulation! I also read two other online news sources for comparison of event coverage–but only news sites, not Facebook or any other social media site. Many local papers cover national news by repeating AP stories, so reading one is like reading all; thus I don’t read local papers for national news. National papers often cover local events more even-handedly than local papers do.

    I look forward to reading your newest book, Margaret, even though your art department–like many, many book art depts–doesn’t know how to cap titles or they do so willy nilly for “artistic” reasons. “Was” is a verb and is always capped–even for art. 😉 Sorry, I worked as an editor in publishing for 30 years and I do know editorial doesn’t usually always have a say over the art dept. I apologize for the editor in me coming out! It’s one of my (many, many) peculiarities. 🙁

    1. Hi Eliza, thank you. I hope readers enjoy the book, even with the lower-case verb. 🙂

      1. I’m definitely sure everyone will love your book! Besides I doubt if anyone notices these things these days, even more so with “Is” (a verb) and “It” (a pronoun). It’s always remarkable to me when either gets correctly capitalized in a title any more (except for the NYT that continues on getting it right). I guess it’s not just newspapers being affected by our language use these days.

        1. I find that the “rules” change with each publisher, depending on which style book is used. According to the MLA style book, words with three letters or less in a title are lowercased, even verbs and pronouns. I think most newspapers use the AP style book. Then there’s the Chicago Manual of Style. It’s hard to keep up. LOL

  10. I think newspapers still have their place.

  11. I still read the paper. I only get the Sunday paper now but it really isn’t the same anymore. It took me forever to start reading ebooks because I do love the feel of books and the newspaper. I hope Newspapers will still be around for awhile yet.

    1. Hi Carol, it’s interesting that most of us still prefer print newspapers.

  12. I read the paper online but since there’s not much on it I only read in once in a while. The print paper is only about 3 large sheets folded in half. Sad but with progress a lot of things die out like magazine. But the cost of a newspaper has more people buying and reading it online.

    1. Hi Kim, When we still subscribed to the Los Angeles Daily News, the paper was so thin at times, my husband refused to call it a newspaper. He called it a newsletter.

      1. Here the print paper has more ads they news stories.

  13. I worked for three different publishers, including magazines, nonfiction books and educational texts, and not one lower-cased verbs, all using various style guides, including their own in-house rules. And including MLA. The length of the word rule (3, 4 or 5 characters for uppercase) that changes from publisher to publisher, style guide to style guide, applies to prepositions, not verbs, nouns, etc. Prepositions, articles, and conjunctions are primarily lower-cased in any book title, fiction or non-fiction, but never verbs.

    I tried to look up the inside page headers for How the West Was Wed on various sites but couldn’t find it. Do they have “Was” lowercased at the top of the editorial pages?

    I’ve been a fan of Sourcebooks Casablanca finding they do an outstanding editorial job with their books. Most of the time, when they’re going for an “arty” cover look that doesn’t fit general editorial rules, they use all uppercase and/or type size to get around them. Look at Linda Broday’s cover for “Forever HIS TEXAS Bride” where the pronoun is all in caps. Another example: English’s ‘HOW TO Wed A Warrior” with an article and a preposition capped but in a different type size. According to Sourcebooks’ own cover style, they should have uppercased all the letters for the smaller “WAS” in your title.

    In regular text where there are are no style options or type size options, like on Amazon, your book title has “Was” capped, as do other online sites. But again, at many publishers, the art and editorial departments are different entities, with editorial having various amount of leverage with “art” which is how an art dept. sees a book title.

    BTW, Most newspapers use AP style for their headers, lowercasing all of the title except for for the first word, proper names and such (like the Washington Post does), but the New York Times does not use AP style, instead capping their titles as is done in books. Again, the NYT was outstanding for teaching high school now careless times with proper English. 🙂

    1. Two oops: The line of my text was cut (too long a post, I guess), and the whole post should have appeared under Margaret’s reply to me.

  14. Great post. I admit that I’ve never been one to read the newspaper.

    1. Caryl, thanks for stopping by!

  15. Newspapers are still relevant, but they are in danger. We enjoyed ours until about a month ago. They reduced the number of pages and gutted their content. There is little news and two full pages of obituaries. The first section usually has 6 pages and the second section about the same. It is sad that the editorial page doesn’t run as often and they have dropped many of the good columnists. We will be traveling for several months this summer and are seriously considering not renewing our subscription when we get back. Right now, it is only good for the Sunday comics and the sales fliers and the Wednesday grocery adds.

  16. I forgot to mention I found the cover of the new book just beautiful including the lovely script for the title of the book.

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