Dr. Know: Enquirer Parodies, Shrinking Papers, and Street Sales

Inquiring minds want to know as the good doctor investigates the city’s largest newspaper, the future of print journalism, street sales, and more.
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There was a time when my morning commute included getting stuck at the light at the corner of Glenway and Warsaw avenues, where I’d buy the day’s Cincinnati Enquirer from a guy standing there (no matter the weather!). Is anybody still doing that? If not, when did street sales end? —READ LESS ABOUT IT

Credit to Lars Leetaru

DEAR LESS:

Ted Turner, locally-born creator of CNN, began his news empire as a child, waving The Enquirer at a Cincinnati Zoo trolley stop and yelling, “Read all about it!” Newspaper circulation back then also included street-corner “honor bags,” where customers could grab a paper and voluntarily deposit their 4 cents. That was years ago, of course, when people actually walked around with pennies. And honor.

Over the decades, daily newspaper street-corner sellers morphed into only adults, who were visible only at selected busy intersections and highway exits. By the early 21st century they were seen exclusively on Sundays. When did even that fade away? The latest ad the Doctor could find that recruited such street vendors was from 2016.

Memories of those in the newspaper biz whom the Doctor queried on this topic were fuzzy at best. This is not to suggest we’re confirming the stereotype of the grizzled wet-brain newspaper guy; lately, everyone seems to wonder why they walked into the kitchen.


I’m preparing to sell my mom’s house and am rummaging through old Enquirers she kept in the attic. Among them is one very strange issue that looks real at first but is obviously a parody, spelled Inquirer. The stories are hilariously fake. Where did this come from? Is it a rare collectible? —FAKED NEWS

DEAR FAKED:

The Cincinnati Inquirer, an alternately-spelled parody of our oldest surviving local newspaper, hit the stands in August 1983. At first glance it looked quite authentic, until one began reading it. The front page described how anti-porn protesters had gotten the city to remove Fountain Square’s famous female statue because her chest was too perky. Other stories included Skyline Chili and Graeter’s announcing their joint creation of “Cincinnati Five-Way Ice Cream.”

The parody was almost single-handedly created by Frank J. Diekmann, a freshly-graduated UC student and fan of the genre. With help from some friends, he wrote, laid out, printed, and delivered The Inquirer to retail outlets all over town. Attention and sales briefly soared.

The only way your mother’s “rare collectible” might fetch huge dollars at Sotheby’s is if Diekmann has since burned his 10,000-or-so unsold copies, which occupied the space in his garage where his 1981 Ford Escort once resided before he sold it to help finance this project. That’s the kind of good-old-fashioned commitment to journalism we desperately need today!


I still get the print edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer, trying to support local journalism. Everything about the paper has shrunk—the staff, the number of articles, and especially the size of the pages. I’m curious: How large were The Enquirer’s pages before the (literal) cuts? —THE YELLOWED PAGES

DEAR YELLOWED:

Welcome to the Doctor’s first all-Enquirer column. The morning Cincinnati Enquirer once took a full morning to read, and the Sunday edition could easily drag you into Tuesday. But no more. The paper has become smaller in many ways, except for two things that have grown larger: font size and white space.

A century ago, the Cincinnati Reds lost the 1922 pennant on an Enquirer front page that was a hefty 18 inches wide and 23 inches tall. When they won the World Series in 1976, the width had shrunk by about 3 inches. One more inch—in both directions—was gone by time the Reds swept the Series in 1990. And when Riverfront Stadium fell in 2002, yet another inch of Enquirer width had inched away.

When the team hosted Pete Rose’s 50th anniversary as a Red in 2013, the front page was barely larger than a legal pad: 10.5 by 14.5 inches. Then, just in time for Joe Burrow joining the Bengals in 2020, 6 inches of Enquirer length returned! Resist the obvious joke temptation, please: It was because printing was shifted to a new location, Louisville.

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