The newspaper I grew up reading is laying off a tenth of its workforce. Apparently, a rather small and insignificant paper is about to become even more small and insignificant.
I’ve recently been cataloguing the stacks of old newspapers that my parents and I have saved over the years as souvenirs of historic events, and even the occasional road trip. I should stop. It’s depressing to comapre content-rich papers from thirty or forty years ago — or even five or ten, for that matter — to the pitiful miniatures being produced today.
I’m a newspaper junkie. And — unlike many of my contemporaries, who find it inevitable and not really a big deal — I’m extremely depressed about the demise of the American newspaper industry. As “wired” as I am, I still enjoy reading my newspaper in the morning. I sometimes read multiple papers in any given day, although I’m doing much less of that now than I did just a few years ago. Frankly, there’s not enough newsprint left to make buying out of town papers worthwhile most of the time.
Why do I like newspapers? I like the way they feel as I hold them in my hand and fold them into various configurations for easier reading. I like the presentation of articles with accompanying photos and information boxes. I like the portability. I like the way that, unlike radio stations, they still have some degree of local variation. I even like the ads. For research purposes, I’ll admt that a saved text file is infinitely more searchable and easier to store, but it’s just not as much fun to look at as an old newspaper clipping.
Most of all, though, I like the fact that I am more inclined to get drawn into reading articles I probably would have skipped over had they been introduced in the form of a one-paragraph hypertext link. That’s also why I like used book and record stores, even in an era where everything can be found online very quickly. Chances are you won’t immediately find exactly what you’re looking for in any given used bookstore. There is, however, a good chance you might find something you didn’t know you were looking for. Ditto for printed newspapers.
Like I said, though, it’s not as much fun as it used to be. A Sunday LA Times used to provide me hours of entertainment. I looked forward to travelling to places with good newspapers and reading them in dumpy diners while I had my breakfast. I still enjoy my LA Times or my Washington Post or whatever, but they aren’t the all-day adventure they used to be. They’re more of an hour-long diversion. And that’s sad. I’m losing one of my favorite hobbies.