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Politically Incorrect

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Font freak

One of the things I like best about late summer’s Festival at Sandpoint is the opportunity I get, while working the information booth, to visit with literally hundreds of friends and acquaintances in an easy, laid-back atmosphere.

Paul Gollin is one of the folks I recently got to visit with as he was working the ice cream booth for the Panida theater and I was making my rounds seeing what kind of food I could scam for free. I met Paul a couple of years back and we’re friends enough that almost every time I see him, he takes me to task for being a Font Freak. “Times New Roman!” he shouts at me with a laugh. “A newspaper should be Times New Roman with maybe some kind of Helvetica for a headline!”

Fonts are the type used to create specific letter shapes– Times New Roman is, indeed, what these words are being typed with.(Online note: our website stories are printed in Arial. These two sentences, however, are in Times New Roman.) It’s been a standard since sometime in the 1800s when the London Times adopted its use and newspapers all over the world followed suit.

I like Times. It’s a good, clean, readable type of font. It’s a little bland, though, a little staid.

And that’s just not enough for a font freak like myself. See,  I also like Yikes, which is this font I’m using now. (Note: Yikes is not a standard font for websites so is not being displayed.) It’s the font I’ve used for my column ever since I started writing it, except it’s not on Dennis’ computer so this poor font has never made it into the paper before now. Yikes, as you can see, is not nearly as readable as Times, but it’s great as a headline; especially when the headline is for my column, cause Yikes reflects a little bit of the person that I am.

Times New Roman, on the other hand, is what newspapers “should” use, with the exception of a sans serif font (missing the little jags at the ends of the letters) like Helvetica,  which is considered suitable for headlines.

My friend Linda, however, taught me one of the great lessons in life. “Don’t should on yourself,” she said. How much of our lives are based on doing what we “should” do instead of what we want to do? And when it comes to a newspaper, who really cares?

When David Keyes went to work as the publisher of the Daily Bee, I interviewed him for a story and visited for a while, as he and I have known each other for years. “Can you get rid of those awful pictures of car wrecks?” I asked him. “I hate to see stuff like that in our daily paper.” He laughed, and responded, “You know the rules, Trish. If it bleeds, it leads. That’s what people want. That’s what sells newspapers.” At least, that’s the gist of what he said. So who made those rules? And why did they make them?

For eight years now, Dennis has been publishing the newspaper you hold in your hands, and for seven years I’ve been working with him. I don’t know exactly how you’d describe The River Journal, but I’m pretty sure you could say it’s a newspaper that doesn’t publish by the rules– we publish what we want, according to “the rules” we find deep in our hearts.

We believe that news is information that provides benefit to the average person in their daily life. We think people want to know about the events going on around them, the local issues that impact their lives, and the neighbors they share this beautiful  valley with.

We believe that freedom of speech and of the press is one of the greatest freedoms guaranteed to the American people under our constitution; we believe in doing unto others as we’d have them do unto ourselves; we believe that quality and service are the two finest rules for a business to follow; we believe that we live in one of the most wonderful places on earth; and we believe that sheep follow the crowd but that people damn well better learn to start thinking for themselves.

Following “the rules,” has created a media that’s used freedom of the press, and the public’s “right to know,” as an excuse to write about things that just aren’t anyone’s business. Thanks to the rules, we know about our former president’s penchant for oral sex with women other than his wife, we know about the underage drinking of our current president’s two daughters, and we know an awful lot more about a whole bunch of local children than what’s really any of our concern. “So, Mrs. Doe,” we hear reporters ask, “What does it feel like to mother a child who took a gun to school and shot a bunch of his classmates?” Excuse me? Just how in the hell do we think it feels? And why in the world is that considered news?

This is a time of change for The River Journal, a time when we’re giving great thought to what we do, why we do it, and how it’s going to be done.  And we’d like to hear what you think about all of those things. There’s a lot of ways you can get in touch with us– email and  addresses and telephone numbers are listed in the box on page three. So stop in, give us a call, or write us a letter, and let us know what you believe about what we should be doing. And if you choose to write to us, go ahead and use any darn font you choose!

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Landon Otis

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Festival at Sandpoint, font

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