“Hey Doc, this date… wait, this is tomorrow’s newspaper!”

An update and addendum to “A Chronological History of the Hill Valley Telegraph”, examining newspapers in the Back to the Future trilogy.

When Marty McFly travelled to 2015 in Back to the Future Part II he did not find an issue of the Hill Valley Telegraph, a local newspaper whose legacy stretches back far. So where was it? It had been swallowed by a huge corporation, in the form of USA Today.

“Is there a review of Jaws 19 in here?”

The depiction of October 21, 2015 in the film was — as we know, it now being firmly The Past — largely inaccurate. But USA Today’s capitalistic zeal to squeeze every penny out of its audience was right on the money. And, for once, it’s hard to ignore. Because USA Today published a wraparound cover for their October 22, 2015 paper, and it looks like this:

CR822JPWEAAXPl_

It’s a pretty neat trick, and as a devoted fan of Back to the Future I find it incredibly cool. (And if you want it yourself, USA Today is selling them at $4.95 a go.)

But it’s not an exact replica for a few reasons. Firstly, Back to the Future Part II leaves proceedings with the front page changed to “GANG JAILED” about Griff and his cohorts get themselves arrested. Still, I’m sure it won’t be half as recognisable to have Thomas F Wilson on your celebratory cover wrap than Michael J Fox. (Sorry, Mr Wilson, but it’s true.)

The text of the main story matches up with the original prop, delightfully, and is now far more readable than it ever was on screen.

And while almost everything else on the page matches up with what we see in the film, there’s a notable exception in “Queen Diana”. Having died in a car accident in 1997, and with Elizabeth II still on the throne, it’s deemed a bit tasteless to have a gag about Diana being the British monarch on a very light-hearted PR exercise.

In the Newsline column it’s simply omitted, with the “KELP PRICE INCREASE” moved up to accommodate. In the top-right corner, under the yellow banner for Hill Valley, “Washington prepares for Queen Diana’s visit” has been replaced by “3D billboards: Free speech or traffic hazards?”

It’s a nice little joke, certainly one less likely to date badly, and like much of the rest of this souvenir edition’s inventions — because there were parts of the page we didn’t see on screen — it references some other bits of the future as seen in the movie: a review of Jaws 19, self-adjusting jackets, rehydrated pizza slices, Cafe ’80s, and so on. It’s an impressive cobbling together of Back to the Future jokes that shows how affectionate people feel towards Robert Zemeckis’s greatest accomplishment.

And in celebrating the trilogy, guess what turned out to be most important all over again? Newspapers.

There's even an ad for Jaws 19...
There’s even an ad for Jaws 19…
...and the USA Today drone makes a reappearance!
…and the USA Today drone makes a reappearance!

(Both pictures from @alexgriendling.)

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