Original Gossip Girl Out of a Job

This week, legendary gossip columnist Liz Smith, who has written news headlines for 30 years, became one.

Like so many other jobs in the newspaper industry, hers was cut. To cut costs, The New York Post will no longer print Liz Smith's famous column.

"My being fired is nothing special," Smith said. "It's absolutely a part of what's going on in the economy. And nobody's ever seen anything like this. I think only because I've been around so long, ha ha, I became the flavor of the 24-hour news cycle."

Smith came to New York from Texas in 1949 with only $50 to her name.

In 1991 she told ABC's Primetime, "I certainly was a hit when I arrived here. My brother and I were walking in Times Square. I'll never forget this. And so we stepped off a curb, a cab went by and the guy yelled out and said, 'Get back on the curb, you hicks.' My brother asked, 'How did he know?'"

But it wasn't long before Smith was mingling with the stars.

She started writing for a movie magazine, then booked stars for a radio show, and eventually penned her own syndicated column, printed in newspapers across the country.

Once reportedly one of the highest paid columnists in the United States, she is not mourning the loss of any big paycheck; she is instead lamenting the death of the American newspapers.

"I can't envision a world without newspapers," she said. "The problem is that the Internet rose up and it has displaced a lot of people from reading newspapers. They just didn't bother anymore. The newspapers might have survived that, but then the economic downturn happened and now they're dropping like flies for lack of advertising."

The headlines are in fact grim for many newspapers. Just this week, the Rocky Mountain News in Colorado wrote its own obituary.

Smith said that responsible newspapers are the real guardians of people's freedom and democracy.

"They ask questions, they find out who the villains and heroes are in all of that," she said.

Smith says there's something to be said about a credited source.

"Somebody said to me the other day, 'People will just blog from Iraq and tell you what's going on.' Well, I don't believe most of the stuff I see that comes from an unsubstantiated source like that," she said. "I want to think there's an editor and a publisher."

It's not that she doesn't embrace the Internet. In fact, she helped create the Web site The Women on the Web. But there's no question that the first love of the original gossip girl is the newspaper. "I get up every morning, I used to go have a cup of coffee and read all the papers. Now, I have to go to the damned computer, and turn the damned thing on."

A fellow editor gave Smith an idea.

"He told me we should get a jalopy, pile it full of editors, reporters and publishers, drive down to Washington and ask for a bailout for the nation's newspapers," Smith said.

"I can only say that to be fired at 86, I know a lot of people think I shouldn't have been working anyway. But I just have always loved my job and I had so much fun at it. I'm not going to quit. I guess I'll be writing on sidewalks with chalk."

Smith will continue dishing through her syndicated column that still runs in other cities.

And at 86, she's not ruling out a return to another New York newspaper.

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