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Editors of old werent stingy with their wit
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One of the many experts that enjoyed critiquing newspapers used to say there wasn't enough humor in them.

That despite the fact that newspapers devote a page or more to the funnies. And some material in newspapers might inspire a laugh even if that wasn't the intention.

Newspapers of old didn't seem to take themselves so seriously, and you could find considerable humor in their columns. Those were the "anything-goes" days when libel laws were loose or editors didn't pay them much attention.

Many of today's columnists provide a bit of wit now and then. But editors way back then were fond of just telling jokes. Like this one in the Walton Tribune decades ago:

A stranger entered the local church and sat on the back pew. As the sermon droned on, he asked an elderly gentleman next to him, "How long has he been preaching?"

"Thirty or 40 years, I think," came the reply.

"I'll stay then," the visitor replied. "He must be nearly done."

Another editor told the story of a man who shot and killed his wife, then killed himself after they argued over who should read the local paper first. The editor suggested a law be passed requiring the head of every family subscribe for two papers. And, the editor added, they should be paid for in advance.

Austin Dean, who once published the Gainesville Eagle, made a name for himself in Georgia journalism and in some national circles. He wryly expressed the frustration of editors in a column back in 1931, some of which is applicable today:

"Readers expect the editor to be a combination of sheriff and minister. His it is to ferret out crime, see the criminal captured, convicted and behind the bars. Then his it is to write evangelical editorials, which the prisoner is to read and become reformed.

"Readers expect the editor to play both sides against the middle, to be right always and to fail never in championing every cause, just because some want it. In politics, the editor is supposed to be infallible. In advocating principles, he is expected to be both sage and teacher, having the wisdom of Solomon, the shrewdness of Disraeli and the tutoring ability of Socrates.

"Let him fall short in any of these, and the readers would afflict him, like Solomon with multitudinous wives, like Disraeli with overcoming the antipathy of his race, and, like Socrates, condemn him to quaif the fatal hyslop.

"If an editor supports an issue objectionable to a certain group, they come in and cancel their subscriptions. If he does not, then those favoring it will stop the paper. If he is a Democrat, Republicans spurn him, and vice versa. If he is a church-goer, a civic leader and a booster, he is hied as a Babbitt; if he is not, he is called an atheist, a mossback and a chronic cynic.

"He must practice what he preaches or face the challenge of hypocrisy. No one believes him human like others, his little drink being more of a stimulant than an advocacy of anti-Volsteadism; maybe a means of forgetting the demands made upon him.

"He must be more charitable than a Community Chest. His pages must be open to this, that and the other free publicity, regardless of the cost to him. He must praise the most dastardly ne'er-do-well when he succumbs, he must actually paint the lily and perfume the rose, besides beautifying trash and embellishing nothingness.

"He must give sound business advice and write poetry; he must be both practical and artistic, aesthetic and commercial. He should be able to run a bank, try a case, preach a sermon, dig a ditch and indite a lyric. His knowledge of prize-fighting should not surpass his familiarity with dactylic and hexameters; he should be as good a surgeon as a woodsman. What he doesn't know shouldn't be known, and if known not published.

"He must be the know-all of it all, the Alpha and Omega, the sum and substance of those things that are, have been and are to be.

"It's impossible, but who wouldn't be an editor?

"It's the only life."

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays. You can read his past columns on gainesville