A Replenishing “Oasis”—Bus Plunges
I found it interesting that “bus plunge” was apparently a common headline, because I couldn’t recall ever having seen such a headline. Granted, I don’t look at a print newspaper all that frequently, but I skim through them enough that I found it odd I had never noticed it. But voila, here the answer for why I have never seen one is explained by Shafer. Bus plunge articles have disappeared over time. They were used primarily to fill space when necessary back when typesetting had to be done by hand. How much space articles would take up was hard to estimate and these little shorts (since bus plunge stories could be edited to very few lines) could fill in the extra spaces. Now, since everything is electronic spaces are easier to fill by simply making a picture or the font bigger.
However, Shafer opines that these “shorts” might actually have served a purpose, “The abundance of bite-sized pieces scattered about gave readers multiple points of entry into yesterday's newspaper. Parched by a long story about tax policy that jumped from Page One, a reader could always count on finding a little oasis where he could replenish himself. Knowing that most pages contained a few shorts gave readers added reason to flip through the paper and nibble here and there.” And I really agree with him. Not only because these shorts provide little snippets of text to contrast with the longer, more complicated stories, but also because they provide amusement and interesting facts. As I mentioned before, a previous summer job required me to spend a lot of time looking at old newspapers on microfilm. I noticed a lot of these shorter articles, some would just be facts. The very randomness of some of them just made me laugh. Shafer gives an example of one such short from The Times, “Most snails are both male and female, according to the Associated Press.”
I’m not suggesting that newspapers should forego the actual, newsworthy stories, but once in a while amid the death and destruction, it can be heartening to a reader to simply read a random fact. Granted, bus plunges are not particularly amusing, but I’m going to have to agree with Shafer, I think that shorts did serve a purpose.
Read more on “bus plunges.”