In the twilight of the newspaper industry - not to worry, twilight can go on for a long time and I am hoping to pay off my mortgage before the moon comes up - one of the first visible signs of strain has been in the decline of style.
By style, I mean not the manner of writing but the uniform way in which things are written. Do you spell out numbers? (Only from one to 10, with exceptions for ages and percentages.) Do you hyphenate African American? (Only when used as an adjective.) Is it Mt. Washington or Mount Washington (Mount Washington).
There are literally hundreds of these rules and they are written down, traditionally in a stylebook but now kept online as well. The Associated Press is the ultimate authority for the style of many newspapers, including the Post-Gazette, which also has its own local rules to supplement the AP commandments (Mount Washington).
In the heyday of newspapers, this was all taken very seriously and certain copy editors took upon themselves to be the sheriffs of style. Woe betide the young reporter who did not know that "under way" is two words in virtually all uses, except when used as an adjective in a nautical sense - "an underway flotilla."
Nowadays, you are apt to see any old style in the paper. The copy editors are just too few and too busy trying to get the news in the newspaper to worry about whether underway is one word or two.
To traditionalists like myself, this is a great shame and sorrow. And as an old fossil, I was saddened by an AP Stylebook Update that arrived electronically this afternoon.
In its imperial majesty, the AP style mavens have decreed that henceforth "the entry on Caesarean section has been changed to cesarean section."
I don't think it is right to mess with the names of Roman emperors. I know where this will inevitably lead: One day soon, the so-called cesarean section will be known by the AP as Bob's section or something similar.
I suppose they had decrees like this in the final days when the barbarians were at the gates of Rome.
Then, as now, the greater sadness for a person like me is that nobody now cares one way or the other.