Saturday, May 9, 2009
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
I am what many might consider a dying breed. I still read a daily newspaper. Not the condensed on-line version. The real hard-copy kind with inky newsprint that rubs off on your fingertips. I have been doing it since I was a kid growing up in St. Catharines. I would rush to the front door for the weekend edition containing the Star Weekly magazine and of course the colour comics. It was like a small gift that arrived every week. As a child, I may not have always understood the politics or business stories, but I tried to read them and if I was bored or uninterested, there was always the word scramble or crossword to entertain. My feeling about the weekend paper hasn't changed much since that time. I am often awakened around 4:00 am by the comforting thud it makes on my front porch as it's tossed by the delivery person (I've actually never seen him/her). For a time during my years as a Journalism student at Ryerson in the early eighties, I subscribed to 3 dailies. It was imperative to know and understand the political leanings of all and to prepare myself with a thorough knowledge of the writers and editors. I was going to be ready to talk intelligently to the folks who might eventually be hiring me, that was for sure. As a poor student, it was a good chunk of my living budget, but I deemed it worthy. I am also a magazine junkie, but that is a whole other blog. So lately, with the talk of the fate of newspapers coming up pretty much daily, I'm starting to worry. Last weekend I went to see The Soloist and references were made in the movie about the dim future of the L.A. Times. On a visit to see my folks yesterday, my own father told me he had cancelled his subscription to the local daily - The St. Catharines Standard. He claims their budget cutbacks have turned the paper into a useless rag with barely any local news coverage. If old school readers like my dad are pulling the plug, newspaper publishers must really be skating on thin ice. I thought it was just a sign of the times with the younger techie generation turning to their computers for all their information, but apparently not. It speaks to the fast-paced lifestyle most people live today. Who has time to sit down and read a newspaper, when you can get lightening speed snippets on TV or the Internet? This, however is the point they are missing. For me, the daily reading of the paper is akin to a meditation session. It forces you to sit down, in a quiet space, hot tea or coffee in hand and physically turn the pages, stopping to pause on whatever headline catches your eye. I know everyone is in a rush, and there are days when I too, barely have time to glance at the headlines on the front page, but I try to find the time for this daily ritual. Especially on the weekend. I only subscribe to one weekend paper now (recession cost-cutting measure) and if I don't have time on Saturday morning, I stretch it out over two days, quite willingly. However, perhaps the most important reason I prefer the paper over the TV news or the Internet, is in the details. It is not unusual for a newspaper story to move me to tears. Over my lifetime, I have had to stop and grab a Kleenex to dry my eyes while reading a powerful in-depth story of a nation's struggle, or a personal human tragedy more times than I care to recall. A fifteen second TV report rarely grabs me in the same way. It's like the movie version of a great book - never quite as good. As much as there are compelling reasons to abandon my affair with this daily ritual - "think of the wasted paper, the clear-cutting of trees", there are plenty of even more compelling reasons to continue. What else would I grab to roll up and kill a spider? What would folks use to lay on the kitchen floor when training that leaky new pup? What would budget-minded students use to wrap their precious mis-matched dishes when moving back home? It makes a good cost-effective alternative to painting drop cloths. Some people even use it with vinegar and water to clean windows.(I've heard) I'm sure there is a very long list of uses. My point being, after you're done reading, it still comes in handy. Aaahh, let's face it, I'm just not ready to give it up. I love newspapers, always have. I just hope there are enough others like me out there with the same sentimental attachment to save them. The reality though - probably not.