Leave a Comment

I've seen all of the Back to the Future movies far, far more times than the average person, and kind of thought I had done all the deep-thinking about the series that anyone possibly could. I can tell you the color of Clara's dress in the final train scene without looking it up. I remember the game that Marty plays with his hands ("That's like a baby's toy!") at Cafe 80s. I remember the song that George McFly dances alone to next to the table at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. And I have thought many times over the years that if we could just re-elect Goldie Wilson, he really might be able to follow through on his promises to clean up this town.

And yet, I'm embarrassed that New York Magazine has picked up on something in the Back to the Future series that I never caught-- particularly since it's about the reoccurring newspaper headlines, and after three years of editing my college newspaper I have a special affinity for picking headline sizes. Did you ever noticed how the HIll Valley Telegraph can pick some truly bizarre topics for its giant banner headlines? And how it understands the American Congress really poorly? New York Magazine sure did.

Here's a very brief excerpt, with photos, from their fantastic and fantastically silly piece:

We are introduced to the Telegraph when Marty, having been transported without his knowledge to 1955, sees a headline reporting national news:

Marty is struck by the oddness of it because, despite having driven what he knows is a time machine, he has not figured out that it’s 1955. But the headline is useful because it establishes that the Telegraph is not merely a local paper — it reports on national news, albeit in a vague and uninformative fashion. A president can’t veto a “Senate bill,” he can only veto a bill that’s been passed by both houses. It’s not clear why a veto would merit a banner headline — normally reserved for declarations of war, presidential election, or assassinations and the like — but if it did, you would think the subject of the bill would make it somewhere into the headline.

The Telegraph’s strong (if not informed) interest in Washington legislative arcana makes it all the more striking that it proceeds to devote banner headlines to relatively minor developments impacting private citizens in the town, including a house fire:

A lightning strike:

And the presumably insane ranting of a local farmer:

Like I said, it's extremely silly, and ignores the logical explanation of the giant headlines existing for the sake of the audience, making it instantly easy to read what the headlines say and keeping you up to date on the many events in Hill Valley's history. But if you're a big Back to the Future nerd like me, trying to understand the editorial board of the Hill Valley Telegraph is just the natural next step in fandom.

For more deep reads on the paper of record in Hill Valley, including their coverage of Bill Tannen's gambling career, click here.