Taking it apart, we discovered it wasn't just stuffed with "newspaper." It contained a particular newspaper — the complete Minneapolis Star-Tribune edition of Sunday, April 23, 1972 — an unexpected and surprising time capsule.
How do articles selected for publication in one physical newspaper on a non-historic day more than forty years ago speak to the world today? More than you would think.
Nation/World. The Vietnam War was still going on, the Star-Trib reporting on a bombing campaign being waged south of Hanoi.
Today. Unfortunately, war is a constant. But today, manned campaigns attacking large areas in hope of hitting targets of interest have been largely replaced with more focused strikes by unmanned drones.
Science. The Star-Trib reported that astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke, Jr. of Apollo 16 were exploring the Moon, having landed on April 20, 1972. [Note: Duke would famously leave a photo of his family on the lunar surface before departing on April 27th.]
Today. NASA can successfully drop unmanned space robots on Mars for exploration and data gathering. But no human being has stepped foot on another celestial body since 1972 (Apollo 17). Echoing President John F. Kennedy's promise of the early 1960's, NASA has pledged to return a man to the Moon before the end of the decade.
Sports. Ted Harris, Captain of the Minnesota North Stars NHL hockey team, was threatening to defect to the Winnepeg Jets of the newly-formed World Hockey Association (WHA) because the club would not add a no-trade clause to his two-year contract.
Today. The median salary for an NHL player in 1972 was $25,000 (highest was $200K). The WHA broke the reserve clause, bringing free agency to hockey, later merging with the NHL in 1979. The median NHL salary is now $1.4M (highest is $8.7M). It is now common for star athletes in all team sports to have no-trade clauses, identifying to which deep-pocketed teams in glamorous media markets they would accept a trade. Still, ESPN reported that Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers refused to report to 2013 training camp in a contract dispute. [Footnote: Harris stayed with Minnesota, but was traded to the Detroit Red Wings during the 1973 season. He later coached the North Stars for three seasons 1975-1978.]
Real Estate/Inflation. A 4-bedroom colonial in the South Harriet Park neighborhood of Edina MN, listed in the classifieds, was on the market for $69,900.
Today. South Harriet Park is located close to the now-popular 50th & France area for "shopping, dining and entertainment." 4-bedroom houses in this neighborhood command more than $1M. [Source: Edina Realty.] Houses from the 70's are likely to have been torn down to make way for new construction.
Weather. 4 inches of snow was threatening to cancel the 1972 home opener for the Minnesota Twins baseball team the following day.
Today. Some things never change. Snow threatens Opening Day in northern cities almost every season. But we are more likely to get weather information off our smartphones at any time of day than from a morning or evening newspaper.
I like physical newspapers. (I get three on Fridays.) Breakfast isn't the same without one. But I am no luddite clinging to old media. The online edition of The New York Times is an essential tool; a wealth of industry news reaches me via LinkedIn and Twitter. And, of course I researched the salient details of the above topics on the web.
With news on a constant digital feed and the internet archiving all human activity for perpetuity, can the events reported on any routine day in any particular city again be significant, if only in hindsight?
Title: Thick as a Brick
Thick as a Brick is the fifth studio album by the UK band Jethro Tull. It reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 in the United States upon release in 1972. The original LP packaging opens up as a 12-page newspaper (parody), The St. Cleve Chronicle. Later LP editions would condense this to the standard four-side gatefold (draining it of much charm and humor). For the 2012 release of the sequel Thick as a Brick 2, a mock online newspaper StCleve was set up.
© 2013 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.