In the good old days, when sibling rivalry was at its fiercest, Big Sister Morning and Little Sister Evening gloried in the character flaws their rivals found in them. The cavernous Sunpapers newsroom on the fifth floor at 501 North Calvert Street was divided then as it is not today: The Evening Sun on the south side, The Sun on the north side.
In between stood a massive wall and a glassed-in communications room, where teletype machines chattered out wire-service stories at a slow, pre-electronic rate. It was the most visible but hardly the most important of the differences between the two Baltimore newspapers.
Evening Sun staffers used to grouse that they earned the money and the haughty Morning journalists spent it. Right. And rightly so, was the response from the north side of the Chinese Wall. It was only fitting that the revenues gleaned from higher Evening Sun circulation should pay for the numerous foreign bureaus and the large Washington Bureau that reported exclusively to readers of the Morning Sun.
After all, we northerners reasoned, The Sun was the newspaper of record. We were in charge of the nation, the world, the universe -- and, on the back page, our backyard. Our readers, though not so numerous, were manifestly better informed or more eager to become so. In the order of things, it was only fitting that The Evening Sun should grub away at local news, relying on the Associated Press for coverage farther afield, while the Morning paper described the sweep of history, day by day.
Such feelings of superiority, however, were confined to the northern side of the city room. On the southern side, Evening Sun staffers took it as a given that they were the better writers. Their stuff was livelier, grittier, more steeped in what matters to citizens of a blue-collar city working hard for a living. Right. And rightly so. And to make the point, every once in a while an Evening staffer would make the big jump to a Morning Sun overseas assignment and big expense accounts.
Now that we as Big Sister must say goodbye to the bratty Little Sister, we do so with respect for a tradition gone by, with nostalgia for the old days and real regret about the decline of afternoon newspapers all over America. At least there is some relief that the best of The Evening Sun will be incorporated in the bigger, better newspaper that hits the streets of Baltimore on Monday morn.