The Archivist: First 'Dear Abby' praised newspaper for leading the way

Mary Phillips: The original Dear Abby, Dorothy Dix, wrote in 1889 of how newspapers are like a woman — chock full of news, gossip, charm, humor and knowledge.
BY MARY PHILLIPS Published: September 3, 2012
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Maybe you saw the news.

The Times-Picayune, the daily newspaper for New Orleans, La., since 1837, is downsizing from a daily to publishing three days a week.

In this age of digital news, newspapers have had to find other ways to compete or disappear.

The Oklahoman still publishes seven days a week, but also offers its award-winning digital site, NewsOK.com, as an alternative.

Dorothy Dix, the pen name of Mrs. Elizabeth M. Gilmer, was a syndicated columnist who began her writing career at the New Orleans Daily Picayune in 1896 after a chance encounter with the newspaper's publisher.

Dix pioneered the advice column and the syndication of her column, Dorothy Dix Talks. She was the first “Dear Abby,” if you please.

Her column was carried by the Oklahoma City Times and also The Oklahoman until her death in 1951.

She touched millions of readers with her advice column for more than half a century, according to her obituary.

Dorothy Dix contributed this column about newspapers for The Oklahoman's Golden Anniversary edition, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1889 Land Run on April 23, 1939. The Oklahoma City Times began publishing in May of 1889 and was also celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“In a way a newspaper is like a woman. The chief charm of both is in being a good gossip and having all the news of the world at the tips of their tongue, and if they have personality and originality — what we call IT, for want of a better word — the older they get, the better they are.

“For the newspaper, like the woman, adds humor and knowledge and experience of life and tolerance of poor humanities' faults and foibles to its other virtues and becomes the friend and comrade without whose salty companionship our days would be flavorless. It is Grandma with her new hairdo and a short skirt who remembers everything she should have forgotten: who knows who's who and when such and such a one moved across the railroad tracks; who has birthed so many babies and pinned the wedding veils on so many brides; who has wept at so many funerals; who has rejoiced with so many in their good fortunes and comforted so many in their hour of misfortune that she is part of the lives of the whole community.


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