[From time to time a farmer feels compelled to waste half a day wrestling a rock out of a location where its continued presence is a constant aggravation which can no longer be borne. Such is the nature of the following patch of text. Readers need not apologize for skipping over it; we apologize for its length. Once we got this rock rolling…. In our defense, it could have been even longer. – The Ed.]
Elsewhere in this issue we cite a statement which was recently published in the Portsmouth Herald—a newspaper which we used to call “The Award-Winning Local Daily.” The moniker had been earned by the frequency with which that newspaper published alleged news stories about its latest slew of awards.
Those stories no longer appear with such frequency. This might be due to increasing modesty, or perhaps to declining quality; it is not for us to say. We continued using the sobriquet, often acronymized as AWLD, both out of habit and because it seemed to have become part of the local vernacular.
A few years ago an astute member of our team pointed out that the term “local,” as we had been using it, was misleading. Though we had initially intended it to refer to the paper’s purported news coverage, in this context “local” seemed to suggest that the seat of its controlling powers lay somewhere within this Zip Code. Such, of course, was not the case, nor had it been for many years.
Somehow, the alleged editor decided that the solution was to henceforth refer to the Herald as the “Hedge-Fund Owned Local Daily.” Once again, the cornucopia of nepotism had yielded its rotten fruits. What was the reader to think—that the hedge fund was local? (It was not.)
Having created this morass of confusion, we resolved to clarify the matter; let us hope that, in doing so, we do not make it worse.
The Herald lost its claim to local ownership in the late 1960s, when the heirs of Justin Downing Hartford [1898 – 1963] sold the paper. The purchaser was Roy Thomson, a Canadian barber’s son whose success in the newspaper racket was so spectacular that it earned him a British title: 1st Baron Thomson of Fleet.
At some point Thomson sold to Ottaway, which was then absorbed by Dow Jones. In plain English, “Dow Jones” is a legal fiction—a corporation whose function is to divert attention from humans. In this case, they are the Bancrofts whom Wikipedia calls “a family of publicly reclusive Boston socialites” who while away their leisure time breeding show horses and sailing yachts.
Alas for the Bancrofts, Rupert Murdoch—infamous for, among other things, having introduced photos of nude girls on page three of The Sun, his London tabloid—began eyeing their asset. Prolonged negotiations were consummated in 2007; Murdoch induced the Bancrofts to overcome their disdain for crude Australians through the clever tactic of offering yet more money. The Dow Jones papers—including the forlorn Herald—became part of Murdoch’s News Corp.
Five years later News Corpse—please pardon the accuracy—sold the Dow papers to GateHouse Media for $87 million. Perhaps to better align its financial and moral conditions, GateHouse promptly declared bankruptcy. Because it is a corporate person, rather than a lowly human, GateHouse’s bankruptcy was no obstacle to an epic spending spree which would have caused Roy Thomson to turn green with envy.
In 2017, Ken Doctor at the Nieman Journalism Lab explained where GateHouse got the money:
“Institutional and mutual fund shareholders…own at least 70 percent of the company. They find its dividend—just increased to 35 cents per quarter—attractive. There’s rich irony here: The retirement funds of those in the news industry, among many others, helps fund these New Media takeovers, which in turn result in more job cutbacks and the thinning of journalism in communities from coast to coast. Those nice dividend checks mean fewer journalist paychecks.”
Should we then call what’s left of the Herald the Formerly-Award-Winning, Mysteriously-Owned Local Daily, or FAWMOLD? Seems ungainly….
Golden Boy Found Under Golden Dome
The excitement at GQP HQ—and at Politico—is palpable:
Dateline, May 17 : “Republicans have launched an all-out effort to woo Gov. Chris Sununu into a challenge to Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan next fall.” …
“‘He’d be a great candidate,’ said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has personally lobbied Sununu to take on Hassan. ‘We’re hoping he’d make the race.’” …
“Sununu has the potential to be the most important Republican recruit of the cycle. He’s an incumbent three-term governor …. And he’s political royalty in the Granite State, the son of a former governor and White House chief of staff as well as the brother of a former senator.”
And here we thought monarchy had fallen out of favor.
The Party Band—the pride of Lowell, Massachusetts, or so we would imagine—visited Portsmouth on Sunday. The band has been together at least since 2014, we learn from snooping around at partybandlowell.bandcamp.com. Anyone with ears, though, could easily tell: they’ve been playing together for a good long while. The crowd clearly loved the show. Albums are available on their bandcamp page, along with merch including a cloth patch bearing this succinct message: “Mass. Brass Punk Funk.”
Maybe L. Ron Hubbard DID Sink a Sub
Three years ago on May 19th, our Tidal Guide began featuring a particular item; here is the most recent version: “1943—U.S. submarine-chaser PC-815, L. Ron Hubbard, Cmdr., battles non-existent Japanese subs off Ore.”
On Thursday—May 19th—we received a comment and an email contesting the accuracy of that item. We are always, of course, grateful for any assistance in improving the accuracy of that feature. Some such corrections take the fun out of an item. This one had the opposite effect.
Commenter Mana Nui steered us to a YouTube video titled “Oregon Coast Project,” dated July 21, 2014:
Narrator: “In the spring of 1943, Robert Wood was a 19 year old sailor assigned as a signalmen aboard his sub chaser the SC 536, and although Robert will be 96 years old this Christmas Day, he can still recall the details of the events that began on May 19th, 1943….”
Robert Wood: On May the 18th of 1943 the PC 815 was enroute to San Diego, California, and of course they had their sound gear going and they picked up a ping from a submarine….
Narrator: “The soundman alerted the commanding officer of the PC 815, Lieutenant Ron Hubbard, and again confirmed for the lieutenant what he identified as the sound of screws from a submarine. It was wartime so the PC 815 was sailing with a full crew that had been trained for action. After identifying the presence of one submarine that was deemed unfriendly the sound men on duty and the sound technician responsible for the operation of the magnetic recorder soon identified the sound of a second set of screws in the water.
“The PC 815 reported the targets and prepared to engage the submerged enemy. Once in position the range was determined and the first depth charges were dropped in an attempt to damage the submarine and force it to the surface. The lieutenant [Hubbard] contacted the naval authorities in Astoria and requested reinforcements—additional ships and charges to be dispatched to the location.”
Among them was Wood’s ship, the SC 536.
Wood: “So we started dropping dropping charges. We were also operating with two PCs and another sub chaser and ourselves, and then another ship [Coast Guard Cutter Bonham] and two blimps. This was a new experience. We had never operated with blimps before.”
Narrator: “As the additional ships arrived in the area, attack patterns were set up and additional depth charges were deployed. At one point, the sounds of blowing tanks could be heard below the surface; and several crewmen observed large amounts of orange oil, boiling to the ocean surface. The engagement continued.
“The morning of May twentieth, 1943 began with coordinated attacks on the submarines between the surface vessels and the two U.S. Navy blimps. Magnetic sound contact was confirmed and provided by sound technicians aboard the ships before additional depth charges were dropped. Sound information from one of the blimps indicated that one of the submarines had turned and seemed to be headed for shallower water. Surface vessels again pursued and attacked.”
Wood said that May 19th and 20th were the busiest days of the engagement. The PC 815 dropped 67 charges. On the second day, Woods’ 536 ran out of charges; more were sent down from Astoria.
Narrator: “In the early evening hours of May twentieth the blimps used signal flares to indicate the location of the enemy submarine that had been detected. Charges were set to the appropriate depth and deployed by the SC 536. Crewmen aboard the blimps reported a direct hit on the target, something Robert Wood clearly recalls.”
Wood: “I communicated with the blimp quite a bit…. One time they sent a message that we, our depth charges had made a direct hit on the submarine, and that we had sunk the sub. So we didn’t forget that message and were very proud of it.”
Narrator: “On the morning of May 21st the surface ships’ crewmen continue to investigate the area that the ships attacked the night before. The soundmen and sound technician on the PC 815 again reported the sounds of air tanks being blown below the surface and just off their port bow. They waited for a submarine to surface.
“Suddenly the man on deck spotted a periscope that had risen up through a boil of orange oil. The barrel of the periscope was clearly identifiable. Gunners immediately swung the deck gun into position and opened fire. As a hail of bullets were fired toward the periscope it disappeared back under the surface of the waves. Since the PC 815 was stationary in the water at that time additional charges were dropped by the SC 536. Sound operators reported that the enemy target was distancing itself from the location of the 815 but was believed to be damaged because it departed at a very slow rate. According to declassified reports the engagement with the submarines lasted for 68 hours. Depth charges were dropped for 55 hours.
“Formal reports to naval authorities in Astoria were submitted by the commanding officer of the SC 536, Ed Kroepke, and from Lieutenant Hubbard of the PC 815. Those reports were dismissed. The highest ranking officials—those who had allowed the U.S. Navy vessels to engage possible enemy submarines of the Oregon coast—now displayed skepticism.”
Officially, there were no subs.
The Oregon Coast Project believed Robert Wood, and spent some years searching the sea floor for wreckage, locating a promising anomaly. After Wood died in 2016 it issued this statement: “While our hope was that we would be able to prove his story before we lost him, we intend to continue the work to prove the events for all of the veterans families who know what happened.”
We’ve asked them to keep us posted—for Wood’s sake, of course, not Hubbard’s.
Work has begun on a Super Flood Basin for Dry Dock No. 1 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard—which, so far as this newspaper is concerned, is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We don’t mean to be cranky about it, but New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742 (2001) be damned. In preparation for that work, a nine-month program of underwater blasting will begin next month. Enthusiasts hoping for a repeat of the 1905 Henderson’s Point blast will, however, be disappointed. According to the Formerly-Award-Winning, Mysteriously-Owned Local Daily (see the Alleged News) Naval Facilities and Engineering Command Structural Engineer Linn Lebel has said that the “visible result topside will be a minor disturbance in the localized water surface area with slight ground vibrations…. It will not be a dramatic gush of water and discharge of rock and sand…. most of our community neighbors will not even be aware of the operations.” Before this work got under way, the Navy had to apply for an “incidental harassment authorization.” It requires that the area around the site be monitored for the presence of marine mammals, that the site itself be cordoned off with an underwater “bubble curtain,” and that blasting be delayed if marine mammals are in the area.
We Return to Newsprint on June 4th
Last year, on Friday, March 13th, when our Origami Gang dispersed and our Downtown Distribution team turned in their bags and slips, we could only guess what the future might hold.
We might have been expected to have had some inkling, having survived the Flu Pandemic of 1918. Staff turnover during the intervening century, however, had wiped out any institutional memory of that tragic event. As for any in-house records detailing how Fernando Wood Hartford, our publisher at that time, surmounted that challenge, well…when one takes over a newspaper with a $40 check to the Secretary of State, such luxuries are not included.
Through sheer good fortune, when the plague struck, our website had just been rebuilt from the ground up by the fine folks at the Secret Agency. Being online-only in our previous form for 15 months would have been disheartening.
Digital publication is fine for what it is. It’s nice to be able to reach readers all over the world—even, we presume, on the International Space Station, though we have yet to receive any suggestion that that’s ever happened. Besides, before the pandemic, we were already mailing to readers in Europe and the rest of the world was in reach, thanks to International Forever Stamps.
We are online because we must be. Cyberspace, however—the rabbit hole as big as the universe—is paradoxically confined inside an array of gizmos. Our position is that no amount of digitized grandiosity could ever compare with being physically present, however modestly, in the allegedly real world.
We have used this space on a number of occasions to proclaim our eagerness to return to three dimensions; we just could not wait to resume our proper existence—providing every fortnight “the freshest advices, foreign and domestick” in a svelte, one-ounce packet of unfettered, non-fiction news—so, we’re not waiting any more.
We will see you again, in our old, familiar form, in a fortnight.
At least, so we assume at the moment. We try to always be honest: we have some trepidation. As we might say to anyone else who was attempting this, we’ll believe it when we see it.
We know there will be challenges. Some of those we can plan for, because we know what they are. What changes, though, have been wrought on our environment by the past 31 fortnights?
We have not been this uncertain since May 1, 1999 when we resumed regularly-scheduled publication here in our home town, under our proper name, after being subsumed for four decades into what was then the Award-Winning Local Daily.