The last publisher, N.S. "Buddy" Hayden, stopped by. "That's not how 'Goodbye' is spelled," he protested. That, we explained, was how it was then spelled in the Associated Press style book, which we followed.
"F--- the AP style book!" he exploded. "In this paper, the last we ever publish, we'll spell 'goodbye' right." The "e" was duly added.
Next morning, when the dayside copy desk arrived - its sole function to make fixes for the final final edition - sharp-eyed editors immediately noticed the "e," but were told it was the publisher's order to add it.
Then, for consistency's sake, the copy desk chief said, the rest of the paper should be searched for any "goodbye" references, and the "e" added to them, too.
So on that last day, in that last issue of Philadelphia's once-dominant newspaper, six pages were "lifted" (damn the expense) so that "goodbye" was spelled consistently.
Silly? Perhaps, but this attention to detail may be one difference between a quality product and the lesser kind. Conversely, it may symbolize one reason the Bulletin was dying while its competitors were thriving. To the very end, the Bulletin was obsessed with solid, comprehensive dependability, while the Inquirer and Daily News were encouraging creativity, innovation and pushing the envelope.
An oversimplification, of course. What was happening here was happening all over the country. The afternoon paper had become an anomaly; people stopped reading papers after dinner, it interfered with TV. And delivery trucks had to go farther and farther, earlier and earlier, to get the papers to readers who were moving farther and farther away.
But on that final day exactly 25 years ago, Jan. 29, 1982, we were only vaguely aware of the impact of the social and economic changes created by TV and the mass exodus to the suburbs. All we knew was that our Bulletin, for many years Philadelphia's pre-eminent media outlet, had been steadily losing readers and ad revenue, and that even with a circulation of about 400,000 daily (more than the Inquirer has today), frenzied efforts to make the paper livelier and more attractive appeared to be too little, too late.
What was really happening was that the economics of journalism was changing, and most cities could no longer support more than one daily paper (or, as in Philadelphia, two published by the same company). And the future of newspapers remains uncertain - the surviving papers are being forced to cut back continually (including those that outlasted the Bulletin).
The Bulletin had been the nation's largest evening newspaper. Its advertising motto, "In Philadelphia, nearly everybody reads The Bulletin," was world-famous.
For most of those years, it had been a family-owned company. Although we knew circulation was declining, we on the staff were unaware just how bad things were until publisher Bill McLean announced to a shocked staff in 1980 that the paper was up for sale.
Subsequent buyers tried their damnedest to keep the paper afloat, but it became increasingly apparent that the situation was hopeless. When Hayden told the staff a few days earlier that Jan. 29 would be the last day, he added:
"Dinosaurs don't live here anymore."*
After the Bulletin's collapse, Don Harrison joined the Daily News, and was deputy editor of its opinion pages for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.