A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
My local paper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, recently announced it was going to reduce home delivery to 3 days a week. For awhile last winter, it wasn’t known if the paper would be continuing at all or perhaps just as an online edition. This week it was revealed that the 3 days would be Wednesday(coupons), Friday(new movies and entertainment listings) and Sunday(biggest edition). I only get it Sunday, so I was happy that would be one of the delivery days. The paper will be published on the other days, but those who want it will have to go to a store to get it. That seems like biting the hand that feeds it, since home customers are the most reliable, plus it will be a hardship for the elderly and other readers who have difficulty getting out. Of course, they can read it online, but not everyone can or even wants to. Count me in that last category. Even though I spend a large chunk of my day online and love the whole connectivity that computers provide, I still prefer to read a paper paper.
Part of it is nostalgia. I’ve been attracted to newspapers ever since I can remember. There’s a black and white photo of me as a toddler holding a section of the paper. A closer look shows it’s actually upside down, which always makes me laugh. One of the few interactions my stepfather had with my sister and I was to read the funnies(comics) out loud to us occasionally. We each used to sit on the wide arms of the 1950′s style chair, while he read the character balloons, even after I could read them myself, I treasured the rare notice he took of us at those times. I was reading the paper in grade school, something a wimpy little kid should really not have been doing. The writing style of articles at that time was a bit more lurid than today’s, so I recall lots of fear and nightmares after some of the things I had read.
As a teen, I progressed to delivering the morning paper to some of the nearby streets in my neighborhood. This was during the severe winter of 1978, with record snowfall and power outages. There was even a ship stuck in the ice on Lake Erie, which I saw behind some of the houses on my route. I loved delivering the paper, the peaceful time as the sun is rising and with no traffic on the streets. I hated collecting the payments from subscribers, all that math and dealing with people was so different from the nature hike that delivery was to me.
The other reason I prefer the old-fashioned kind of paper is that I like to read it while I’m eating. Folding it next to my plate, I can pretend that I’m eating exotic food in an exciting locale as I read the Travel section or growl through my pasta when there’s an op-ed I disagree with. I suppose if I had a computer tablet or laptop, I could do something similar, but having a desk top PC at the other end of my apartment doesn’t lend itself to that.
Aside from the personal, newspapers have long held an iconic spot in human history. Remember the photographs of people holding up misprinted headlines of Dewey winning the American presidency instead of Truman in 1948? And what about those old films where important events were alluded to by the spinning front page? Do you think a twirling iPad would have the same effect?
Before you say I’m a dinosaur(and I love dinosaurs, so it’s not much of an insult), I am not against technology. In fact, one of the things I was most excited about when I first got online back in the ’90′s was the ability to read newspapers from around the world. And I think it’s broadening to be able to read about events from various points of view and very shortly after it happens. People say it was TV which killed newspapers, but even in the late 1960′s, when Tv was well ensconced in most homes, some metropolitan areas still had multiple newspapers. Chicago, for instance, had four!
And I’m aware that countless trees have been sacrificed for newspapers over the centuries and digital ones will prevent that. (However, some of the chemicals & components of computers are even more damaging to the planet.) And unlike books, which are often printed on acid free paper and have special features which make them works of art, newspapers are purposely ephemeral. As anyone who has saved clippings knows how soon they turn yellow and brittle.
I know that at some point in the near future that printed newspapers will completely disappear, something that still seems unimaginable and more than a bit sad. Of course, my house will be tidier then, but other than that, I’m trying to think of the benefits. Because isn’t that what progress is supposed to be about, improvements?