In the 19th and early 20th centuries, before wire services, news was shared among small town newspapers through an exchange service by which each participating newspaper could trade copies of its latest edition for those of other newspapers and then reprint snippets or a limited number of articles from them in their own upcoming editions.
The postal service delivered those exchanged newspapers for free as a public service to aid in the dissemination of news. The exchange allowed small, rural newspapers to provide their readers with news from across the state and nation.
With that developed a common practice of one newspaper editor reprinting a short item from another paper — usually a newspaper published not too far away, the editor of which was personally known to him — and adding to it his own editorial comment. This might then be picked up later by another editor at a third newspaper who would run the original item, the editorial comment below it, and then add his own comment.
It was the original form of a comment stream. Only, the comments, replies and additional comments in a single stream might take months to complete. Some such comment streams circulated nationally and built to the point they filled two whole columns. Much like today’s social media comment streams, they often began with brief remarks and little jokes, but then grew into fierce and ugly arguments.
Below is one such exchange among the editors of The Jefferson Jimplecute, the South East Texas Journal and The Liberty Vindicator from 1889. The Vindicator runs it again because its current editor agrees with the point made by its first editor.
The Jefferson Jimplecute remarks:
“We are not certain, but we believe firmly that had the devil put Uncle Job to editing a [nonpareil] paper in a small-pica town in dog days the old gentleman would have succumbed.”
In sheer desperation the Jimplecute exclaims:
“D__n Oklahoma. We can’t pick up an exchange but the first thing that greets us is a sensational head, “Oklahoma—The Boomers.” Give us a rest and let fools fight it out.”
But say, brother isn’t it naughty to use cuss words in your paper. —South East Texas Journal.
Of course it is, brother. But sometimes we think that if there is a class of men in the world who should be privileged to “cuss” a little—it is the newspaper man. And how is it “Mack” that you, who lived so long at Sabine Pass never learned to say cuss words?
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