Monday, April 29, 2013


By Arthur H. Gunther III

We can forgive one another for being jaded about the once simplicity of rain, especially that gentle sprinkling that encourages spring flowers to emerge, reaffirming once again that all is not wrong with this crazy world. Super-storm Sandy really whacked us, and like a suitor once tricked by a lover, the trust never fully returns.

But, as in storybook romance, the hope is not far around the next corner, and reliability can again become a reasonable constant. And so it is with the light spring rain, which began this morning (Monday, April 29, 2013) at latitude 41.06 and longitude -73.961 in Blauvelt, N.Y. 

The drizzling was dazzling, though once this sort of wet would be so routine in these parts as to bring not even a ho-hum, except from a gardener itching to grow. Drizzle that dazzles simply because there was (1) no thunder or lighting; (2) no flash flooding; (3) no water in basements; (4) no electrical outages; (5) no closed streets; (6) and no expensive reconstruction bills with super-inflated prices. No, just a very light rain that could have been used for the morning wash of the face after a short walk around the neighborhood, so easy in its fall was this near-May event. Showers are supposed to come in spring, to sustain only our May flowers but to remind us again that there are seasons, and reasons for such.

Not all was perfect, though, for this is not such a universe. Today’s road surfacing is so finely set, and the asphalt is polished by oil accumulating from many vehicles. When light rain hits the surface, motorists spin their wheels in start-up and skid at corners. Perhaps that is nature’s reminder that even its gift of a spring sprinkling, though not refused and so very welcome, has strings attached by humankind.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.

Monday, April 15, 2013


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Every profession has its special character, quirks, shortcuts, efficiencies. In my old newspaper gig, 42 years long, one of these special markings was half sheets, scrap paper taken from left-over newsprint, cut down to about 4x5 inches, give or take.

We would use longer sheets, about 8x10, for typing stories, carbon paper stuck twice between other sheets so that there was first the original, which was sent to typesetting after desk editing; the second, which was used by the page layout person for story placement, length and headline; and the third for the reporter’s files. 

Computers eventually made that wonderful, well-acquired practice of setting three newsprint sheets and two carbons in a non-electric Underwood or Royal. The clack-clack of the machine, usually in a symphony of others, made for a newsroom’s purring as another edition was being readied. When a writer finished his.he piece, he ripped it out of the typewriter with a flourish, the machine’s platen spinning at a sound level that, if it could be set to Morse code would read -- 30 -- the usual newspaper end to a story.

The half sheets made for a different animal. The province of page layout and copy editors, they would be used to write headlines, with type style, size and how many lines indicated. These “hed orders” would be determined mostly by page layout and sometimes modified by copy editors, including the “slotman” or copy chief, who sat in the slot of a horseshoe-shaped desk and threw out head orders to lowly copy editors.

Headline size helps determine story importance, as does the placement of the piece. The right side of a standard or normal-sized broadsheet newspaper carries the most significant story, with the biggest headline. Tabloid front pages are often all headline, and they really “shout,” as they are supposed to do in the “working-class newspaper.

A half sheet might contain seemingly cryptic letters and numbers, like this: 1/42-3 R. That would be Roman-style type in the paper’s usual style, such as Caslon, set on one column at 42 point (72 points to an inch), three lines or “decks”. A 3/60-2 ital head order would be a three-column, 60 point italic, 2-deck head. If special type style were needed, such as for a feature page story, it would be so indicated, such as 5/48-1 bodoni, which is a five-column, 48 point Bodoni type headline on one deck, Roman style, not italic, unless indicated.

Usually, copy chiefs would write the head order on the top right side of an edited story, with a right-angle mark tucking it into the corner. The copy editor would then take the half sheet, also write the hed order with right-angle on top right of his sheet, come up with a head, place the half sheet on the copy and hand it all back to the copy chief. If the chief approved it, he marked page placement on the left bottom side of the half sheet, rolled it up with the copy and put it in a pneumatic tube to be shot to composing.

Today, newspapers do all their story editing, placement and hed writing via computer, which can be observed by other editor at the same time.

But in my more romantic days, there was an intimacy between you and the half sheet. Coming up with a good headline was not easy. Sometimes inspiration set in quickly; most times you needed to ponder. You could get up and walk about the office, but the copy chief didn’t like that. You could drag on a cigarette like the rest of the newsroom. Or you could stare at the half sheet and the story, somehow finding your answer, your headline, in that.

It was a special intimacy in the old newspaper days.


The writer is a retired newspaperman.

Monday, April 1, 2013


     Tunnel to replace Tappan Zee Bridge approach in Rockland County, N.Y. (with disclaimer at end of story)

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     THE NYACKS, N.Y. -- A tunnel will come to the Tappan Zee crossing after all, Albany has announced. Though not the South Nyack-Tarrytown trans-Hudson route long sought by anti-bridge proponents, an underground highway will replace the paved Thruway from the Palisades Center mall in West Nyack to the foot of the soon-to-be-built bridge at South Nyack.
     Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the media Sunday that the tunnel makes sense economically and environmentally since sale of the nearly four miles of land now occupied by the Thruway approach in Rockland -- for mixed development as well as parks and a returned downtown at South Nyack -- would more than pay for the estimated $1 billion tunnel cost. “In the ‘New N.Y.’ magical things can happen,” said the governor.
     As envisioned, the present, deteriorating Thruway roadway, which covers the original 1955 concrete, would be removed, an open trench dug and pre-cast tunnel sections lowered and quickly connected. The new east-west route would be twice as wide as the present, mostly six-lane configuration, thereby allowing for a smoother approach to the also wider replacement bridge. Just as important, room would be allowed for an eventual rail link.
     Air pollution would be controlled by filtration, and there would be no road noise, especially from dieseling trucks, as are now the growing complaints.
     Developers are greeting the news with enthusiasm as much land is to be freed for commercial and residential development, including limited high-rises with Hudson views. The Village of South Nyack is particularly ecstatic since it will obtain free space to redevelop the downtown bulldozed in the original Thruway/bridge construction. The community plans parks and a staging area for the many cyclists expected to cross the new Tappan Zee Bridge. 
     Advocates of a tunnel crossing rather than a new Tappan Zee Bridge from South Nyack to Tarrytown say that while they remain disappointed their idea was consistently met with silence from Albany, they will get half the bargain anyway. Their tunnel concept also had the project beginning at the West Nyack mall.  
     Cuomo said tunnel construction would begin in 2014 on the west-bound route first. As with the new Hudson crossing, this  would be a “design-build” project to facilitate speedier construction and contain costs. About 600 temporary jobs are expected to add to the area economy.
     “Like everything in the ‘New N.Y.,’ the governor said, “The West Nyack to South Nyack tunnel will be a win-win situation, benefiting many.”

     It is hoped that you are one of those readers who follow a piece to its conclusion, Though this story is foolish on April 1, truth is, the tunnel idea is both workable and sensible.