Today marks my 38th anniversary of working at the Daily News

Image courtesy of Del Stone Jr.

Today marks my 38th anniversary of working at the Daily News.

I have bored you in the past with stories about life at the newspaper in the “olden” days, so I won’t repeat that sin.

Oh, maybe I will. A little.

I remain astounded by the changes that have taken place in the newspaper industry (and society in general) since 1979. We are living in an age of science fiction where the world arrives at our doorstep – live – 24 hours a day.

In 1979 we had primitive wire feeds on primitive monochromatic computer terminals that connected to a twitchy mainframe in a cold room. Today the storage in our phones exceeds the storage of that mainframe by many factors of bytes.

I started at the Daily News when “cut and paste” literally meant cutting and pasting, and I know I’ve related that anecdote before but you’ll have to suffer it again, because that’s what people my age do.

The world was different then, too. I think people were much more civic-minded and had a better understanding of the basic functionalities of their city, county, court and law enforcement systems than people of today, who seem more selfish and less educated than ever.

In 1979 the music world approached the precipice of a revolution which would save us from the ravages of disco, off-key raspy-voiced folk singers and worst, country music. New Wave and MTV. The music of the ‘80s was the best. THE best.

Fashions were as strange as they are every decade. At times I had a mullet, a rat tail, fingerless gloves, rolled-down socks, rolled-up blue jeans and collarless shirts.

I have witnessed and participated in all of the major recent journalism revolutions. The first I remember was the Design Revolution – in other words, newspapers actually started to give a damn about page design. Then there was the writing revolution, which disposed of the inverted triangle in favor of a conversational approach to storytelling. There was the graphics revolution ushered in by USA Today, the color revolution, the story length revolution ( an 8-inch story was an epic), and finally, and continuing, the ever-evolving digital revolution, which began with digital photos and continued with Photoshop, then pagination, the internet, and finally mobile technology.

I started as a page designer and beat reporter, then became the design editor and a columnist. I redesigned the Daily News in 1986 and I’m proud to say that basic design lasted until 2006. At times I was the city editor, weekend business section editor, Monday Focus editor, features editor, projects editor and whatever else they wanted to throw at me editor.

My crowning achievement as features editor was an insane Food page about hot dogs that had people calling the newspaper for weeks asking for copies. We had a lot of fun with that page.

Then in 2007 editor Pat Rice called me into his office and said, “You can put together those feature sections in your sleep. I want you to become our next online editor. You don’t have to know how to make the machine go BING. Just put stuff on the website.”

All because I designed a tropical weather Myspace page, complete with ethereal music playing in the background.

So I got into this website stuff. Our page was doing OK with about 2.5 million page views per month. Then it went up to 3 million. Then 4. Then 5. And 6. It topped out during Deepwater Horizon with an astonishing 8 million, but if you had added in the mobile views it would have been 10.

And that’s where things stand today. I continue to work on the website, and I love trying to figure out ways to get people to click. Not just click, but click in the tens of thousands.

I love trying to put together projects. Year before last I did a massive project on the monarch butterfly, which nobody read or gave a shit about. I interviewed the top experts in North America and wrote what I felt was a definitive summary of the monarch’s plight. I don’t know if it helped, but I do know I saw more monarchs last year.

Right now I’m the longest-employed person at the Daily News. Some people would see that as a failure – he couldn’t succeed anywhere else so he stayed here. I stayed, yes. Because I love Fort Walton Beach, enjoyed what I was doing, and had a rich off-camera life that satisfied me in many ways.

The future is uncertain but that is the nature of the news business. I have prepared for that uncertainty. At this point all I can do is hope for the best and try to do an exemplary job, even if I’m a crusty old geezer with barnacles on my belt.

The Daily News’ website is alternately No. 2 or No. 1 in the company’s retinue of websites, depending on the month. Not bad, for a tiny paper in the Florida Panhandle, in a company with over 300 newspapers to its name. I am only partly responsible for that success, but at age 62 I’m glad to still be relevant and still be playing a role, whatever that role may be.

Newspaper reporters and editors once ended their stories with a “-30-” which had something to do with the old telegraph system, from what I understand. I learned that while researching reporter Jeff Newell’s obit. I wrote an editorial about Jeff, saying farewell to a respected and honorable journalist who passed after a long battle with cancer.

So I will end this digital note with the hope that in two years I will be telling you about the cut and paste, the monochromatic computer screens, MTV, and all that old crap you don’t care about but still mean so much to me.


About the author:

Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”

Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.

As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.

Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at .

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

“Alien: Covenant” Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBridge, Demian Bichir. Directed by Ridley Scott. 122 minutes. Rated R.

Del’s take

“Alien: Covenant” is probably the movie you wish “Prometheus” had been.

It has a lot going for it: Storytelling is slick and efficient, eschewing junked-up plots and mystical mumbo-jumbo. Characterization is improved, with believable people speaking believable lines. And it does a creditable job of untangling the execrable birds’ nest of plotlines and unanswered questions presented by the afore-mentioned predecessor.

Director Ridley Scott sticks with the familiar and tries to evoke the grime and claustrophobia of “Alien,” while at the same time throwing in the rough-hewn desperation of “Aliens.” That’s where “Covenant” goes awry. In parts it is not so much an homage to the first two and best entries in the “Alien” canon but a blatant ripoff worthy of a J.J. Abrams flick.

Still, it’s not a bad movie and it puts the “Alien” franchise back on course with the possibility of future interesting sequels. For those all these reasons you should see it.

The movie stars Michael Fassbender as David or, schizophrenically, Walter, the yin and the yang of the story’s synthetic characters. Walter is a newer, more hepped up version of David who, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, has been stripped of his ability to “create.” That ability also prevents him from slaughtering human beings; feel free to decide if that’s a good or bad thing. I personally feel it’s bad, but hey – no judgments here.

Walter is on board a colony ship headed for a distant planet when suddenly a neutrino storm strikes and the ship is disabled. The crewmembers are awakened from their hibernation pods to deal with the crisis and discover a closer planet more conducive to life. They are made aware of its existence by an incoming signal.

Hmmm. Where have we seen THAT before?

Upon awakening Katherine Waterston, who plays Daniels, almost immediately becomes the victim of a tragedy, one that ultimately brings the entire ship, crew and passengers into the jaws of peril. The tragedy potential is compounded when the decision is made to check out this signal, and this great new party spot on this interstellar pub crawl.

They land on a stormy planet to find a shattered city and the mummified corpses of thousands of its residents, the tall beings from “Prometheus.” Oh, and there’s another weird wreck of a U-shaped spaceship and finally David, who has lived here over the 10 years since the Prometheus disappeared.

They say idle hands are the devil’s playthings, and David has been very, very idle, or should we say very, very busy. Busy with what I won’t say, because that represents an answer to a critical question and it sets up the premise of the sequel. Suffice it to say Walter’s creators had good reason to leave out his creativity chip.

Apart from an opening soliloquy which could have been omitted without any loss to the film, “Covenant” moves along at a brisk pace, alternating between explanation and action. It does not feel like a two-hour movie. Scott, when he isn’t hobbled by a crappy screenplay, can still direct a lean and mean fighting machine of a film.

Fassbender is again superb as David and Walter, slipping back and forth between a polished Oxford and Midwest twang of accents with ease. Waterston is a kind of Signourney Weaver lite trying to fill the Ripley bandolier, but she doesn’t quite carry it off. Billy Crudup makes for a good sniveling Oram, the indecisive, overly religious mission commander who wants the crew to both love and respect him and succeeds at neither, The others are functionally cannon fodder who do rise above their meager contributions, so overall the acting component is effective.

The problem with “Covenant” is that it harkens back too often and too distinctly to “Alien” and “Aliens.” Let me count some of the ways:

1. The crew is summoned to an alien moon by a signal of unknown origin – check.

2. Crawling through dark passageways lit by strobes and punctuated by screaming alarms – check.

3. A rough ride to the surface in a drop ship led by a cowardly commander – check.

4. A tough female lead telling her fellow survivors, “We will seal off the accessways hatch by hatch and blow this motherfucker into outer space” – check.

5. The same tough female lead doing battle with the monster using a large piece of equipment – check.

Even the soundtrack borrows heavily from “Alien,” “Aliens” and “Prometheus.”

There were moments when I thought I was watching Ripley do battle with her extraterrestrial antagonist – THAT’s how similar the tone, pacing and more subtle ingredients, like color palette, were to those earlier movies.

That’s a problem for “Covenant” because those elements don’t mix well. “Alien” and “Aliens,” while sharing a similar premise, are two dramatically different movies, each with its own formulary for pacing and tension. You can’t blend the two and come away with a terrific cinematic experience no more than you can blend a pizza with a cheesecake and come away with a terrific gastronomic experience.

“Covenant” achieves a kind of limited success by answering questions and propelling the series into the realm of sequels, but its reliance on what has come before renders it into a derivative mashup that handicaps its ranking in the “Alien” pantheon. Of all the movies I would rate “Alien” the best with “Aliens” running a very close second. “Alien 3” was essentially a music video that nonetheless had an interesting look and feel, although it squandered all the grandeur of its predecessors. The Winona Ryder “Alien” was insipid and banal, and “Prometheus” was an unmitigated disaster.

Therefore I would place “Covenant” at a distant third on the list, and give it a generous grade of B.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.