The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Hooray for the red, white, blue … and Annie

Like most Americans, I spent Wednesday night watching the bombs bursting in air ovClyde Bentley and Briton Grimmer my local Independence Day celebration.

It was a special time for me, as my grandson was visiting and I had the chance to watch the wonder of this old but ever-fresh tradition reflected in his young eyes. Some wonders never cease.

I might have been able to put all thought of work out of my head if the Missouri Symphony had not struck up a lively version of “The Washington Post.” God I love that song, even though most folks don’t recognize it as the theme for my type of citizen journalism.

John Philip Souza wrote the The Washington Post in 1889 at the request of the famous newspaper. But it wasn’t to mark an anniversary or big scoop. It was a march for the winners in the Post’s first amateur essay contest.

It’s a great story of how the influence of non-journalists changed the course of journalism. Beriah Willkins and Frank Stilson bought the paper (one of four in D.C.) in January 1889. In April, Stilson started that Washington Post Amateur Authors’ Association. for school children in the district. It grew to 22,000 members in just a few months via application forms that “coincidently” gave the Post subscription leads.

Stilson asked his friend Sousa to compose a ditty for the first awards ceremony and Frederick Douglas to join a judging panel of college professors, general, clergy and former congressmen.

Sousa’s masterpiece is still a favorite. But it would have never thrilled my grandson in 2007 if a little girl of almost the same age had not taken up a pen. Annie with her “description of a picture.” First grader Annie Roach won a solid gold medal. By and by, the Washington Post won a Pulitzer. And a Pulitizer. And a Pulitizer…

I couldn’t find the subject of Annie’s picture. But I have one etched in my own mind – Richard Nixon’s 1974 grimace when the band struck up “The Washington Post.”

July 5, 2007 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

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