Annals of Journalism: Paper-Based Forums in 1986

I wrote once before about the strange personal ads I saw when I worked at the Los Angeles Reader years ago. One of my duties at first was typing in classifieds, partly because I was junior and partly because the classififed ad system was also used for the entertainment listings and capsule reviews I had charge of.

Reading last week in The Slacktivist about a proto-blog on paper in a college library reminded me of another oddity at the Reader: the free classifieds.

We had the usual personals and ads, but anyone could send in a card with a few sentences on it and it would be put in the free classifieds section. Nothing in the real classifieds categories could go there, and nothing commercial, but it was free and almost totally uncensored.

The result was a tiny, paper-based social network. Anonymous confessions a la Postsecret were common. “Missed connections” as seen in Craigslist also showed up.

And, inevitably, a running cast of characters turned the free classifieds into a forum. They all had nicknames. Some of them disliked each other. There were running gags and pranks. Occasionally someone would depart in a huff and return. Flame wars went on for weeks. And periodically we had to drop one of the ads because of some violation of policy, and the residents of the free zone would call us tyrants and rage for weeks.

Some members of the group met in person sometimes. I don’t think it went very well.

Working at the paper added another dimension to the experience. We could see by the postcards which people had multiple characters, for example. The same was true for personals. There was one sixtysomething couple who were regulars (as one person) on the boards, and had two other recurring ads: an appeal for a cute young woman to form a threesome with them, and an ad offering 24-hour prayer and spiritual counseling for free. Only we knew that these were all the same people.

These weirdos prepared me perfectly for my later adventures on BBS’s and the Internet. Perceived anonymity, role-playing, multiple false personae, flame wars, socially inept people forming dysfunctional communities, and outsized complaints about censorship? Nothing new! I already knew about the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, the perils of sexual encounters in a virtual world, trolls and flamewars, and the dissociative and fraudulent nature of virtual personalities.

As I was writing this I thought: hey! I wonder if our parent the Chicago Reader still has these? Our classifieds were an exact copy of their much more successful section.

It appears that they do. They’re called Bulletin Messages there, and there are definitely some similarities, and this one in particular looks very much like one of our old regulars. There are obvious differences, but something of the same character is present.

I miss the original, though. There were only 20 or so characters that recurred, and it was a little porthole into a very weird tank of fish.

Hello, Jeanketeers!

The Orange County Register has apparently hired Jean Teasdale to write their nightlife reviews. In this case it’s a real win because the article is about my “favorite” restaurant:

Maybe I’m not hip enough to be at Chronic Cantina. I’ll just throw that out there right now.

I may be the only person that’s gone there not knowing why they call it the Chronic Cantina. Did the section of the menu titled “Munchies” tip me off? No. Did the food with names like “Fatty Tacos” and “Pack Your Tostada Salad Bowl” give me a hint? No.

It was only when I took a look at the drink list and saw the 4:20 Brownie Shot that I got what Chronic Cantina is alluding to.

O FER CRISSAKES JEAN

Area Teens Enjoy Subculture, Say Experts

The fallout (boy) from last night’s FOX 11 special! report! on Emo Scene Kids was pretty good when I posted the video of the news story on Buzznet:

http://www.buzznet.com/web/popculture/videos/5720819/

In which the kids, as usual, are amused by the grownups.

It reminds me of the post Columbine “news” coverage where the reporters were dispatched to find out that the Goth Kids in Dark Coats were feared psychotic loser stabby-people, and found to their consternation that the other kids just thought Goths were “okay like everyone else, just got their own way of dressing and stuff.”

The shocking outcome of this story is that the latest teen subculture looks funny and listens to loud music and isn’t quite sure what defines it.

Someone get Bill Bennett on the horn. We have a KULTUR-KRISIS in the making!!!!!!

This is the most ridiculous article about “immigration”

FOLKS WHEN WE SAID WE WERE GOING TO SCREEN ALL THE IMMIGRANTS FOR CRIME STUFF WE MEANT THE MEXICANS AND BASICALLY MEXICAN-TYPE CRIME AND WHAT’S WITH ALL THESE WHITE PEOPLE BEING DEPORTED WHEN ALL THEY DID WAS BURGLARY AND GUNS AND KNIVES AND ARSON AND REGICIDE AND HARASSMENT OF POSTAL INSPECTORS AND REGULAR OLD HOMEGROWN TERRISM? THAT’S RIGHT I SAID NO ABORTION CLINICS ON OUR NATION’S MOON!

Wider immigration net catches legal residents
Non-citizens accused of crimes are being affected by broader local enforcement of law.
By JEFF OVERLEY
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

She hails from a well-to-do family with a hilltop home in Orange. She’s a mother of two who made a decent living in cosmetology and studied in college to be a teacher.

Sharon Denise Lee might not be the sort of person people had in mind when local law enforcement bolstered immigration screening efforts in recent months.

But the 46-year-old, who came to the United States from England when she was 19, now sits in county jail, awaiting deportation because of several run-ins with the law, including commercial burglary and possession of drug paraphernalia.

but wait there’s more!

Edie Sedgwick, slight return

The Los Angeles Times Magazine has been in decline at least since 1986.

They have tried to recast themselves as the New York Times Magazine, as a Southern California Lifestyle Thing like Sunset Magazine, as maybe four other things. Nothing works.

This week they managed to hit a new low with a feature article on a young woman named Cory Kennedy.

Cory has been internet famous since she was 15, which was in 2005. Someone took pictures of her and posted them, and the phenomenon grew as those things can. She is a pretty girl, and her prettiness is of the gamine waif variety. She will look 15 until she’s 25.

The Times Magazine article is the typical deploring/promoting titillation piece. They at once portray her as the “grew up too fast” pop culture victim and as a high-flying teen hottie. They play this game very well. They also made sure to post forty-four pictures of her to accompany the article on the Net.

Ephebophilic disasters like this aren’t new. The current crop probably started with the Guess? ads in the 1980s. The “new” men’s magazines are all over it. It’s creepy. The way this article presented it was particularly damaging, though. She’s presented as someone who did this of her own initiative and was in charge all along. It started when she was 15. This appears to confirm predators’ belief that their young victims are behaving as adults and not being manipulated.

Edie Sedgwick died in her 20s. I wonder how long Cory will make it?