In the glory years of newspapers decades before the cutbacks and layoffs brought on by the digital information age there was high drama.
Once, it was common for cities to have two competing daily newspapers usually, one that was powerful and dull, another that was hungry and interesting. Their fierce competitions delighted and benefited their readerships, cheering or jeering from the sidelines.
Howard Weaver recalls those days in "Write Hard, Die Free: Dispatches From the Battlefields and Barrooms of the Great Alaska Newspaper War" (Epicenter, $14.95, 240 pages). Weaver spent 23 years at the underdog Anchorage Daily News, doing battle with the "lazy, partisan and vindictive" Anchorage Times.
The result: Through his tenacious reporting and, later, insightful editing and his eagerness to take on the big issues of the day he helped the paper win two Pulitzer Prizes.
Weaver later served as vice president of news at the McClatchy Co., the Sacramento-based publisher of 30 daily papers around the country, including The Sacramento Bee.
Steinbeck and Guthrie
When it comes to iconic California- centric storyteller John Steinbeck, the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas (his birthplace) has it covered.
The 32nd annual Steinbeck Festival themed "A Voice" will run May 3-6 at the center, in collaboration with the Woody Guthrie Centennial. Look for:
Guided tours of:
"The Red Pony" ranch.
Marine biologist Ed Ricketts' historic laboratory buildings on Cannery Row in Monterey.
Salinas-area mega-farms, with talks on how agriculture affected Steinbeck's stories.
Wine-tasting rooms in Carmel Valley, with tractor rides.
Plus: "Woody Guthrie at 100," an exhibition of the folk singer's archival material on loan from the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Plus a concert featuring the folk singer's timeless songs ("This Land is Your Land").
Additional exhibits, digital storytelling workshop, local family histories told via graphic novels, readings, book-pairing discussions, author autograph sessions 50 events in all.
The $150 passport covers everything except the four tours, which have individual fees.
The center is at 1 Main St., Salinas; (831) 775-4726, www.steinbeck.org.
Let's give thanks to the American Library Association's ongoing crusade against literary censorship (www.ala.org). It recently released its Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011 list, based on reports it received "regarding attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves." The titles and complaints (mainly "unsuited to age group"):
1. "ttyl," "ttfn," "l8r, g8r" (the "Internet Girls" trilogy) by Lauren Myracle: "Offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit."
2. "The Color of Earth" (series) by Kim Dong Hwa: "Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit."
3. "The Hunger Games" (trilogy) by Suzanne Collins: "Anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/ satanic, violence."
4. "My Mom's Having a Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy" by Dori Hillestad Butler: "Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit."
5. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie: "Offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit."
6. "Alice" (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: "Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint."
7. "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley: "Insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit."
8. "What My Mother Doesn't Know" by Sonya Sones: "Nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit."
9. "Gossip Girl" (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar: "Drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit."
10. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee: "Offensive language, racism."
Here's a "Wow!" Go to www.buzzfeed.com to view an incredible stop-action animated film of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" by Dutch artist Marcel Schindler.