Black and White and Read All Over

Remember that riddle?  “What’s black and white and read all over?”

Answer: A newspaper!

Well, apparently not.

Just yesterday, I read about the demise of another black and white newspaper – the Ann Arbor News.  In two weeks, our local papers, The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press, will severely limit their production and curtail their home delivery service to weekends only.

I started loving newspapers way back when I was a toddler – seriously.  It was my job to get the paper off the porch each morning, and I remember being fascinated by the look of the big black, Old English letters on the masthead of the Free Press.  Before long, I was learning to read off those black and white pages, sitting on my grandad’s lap while he read me the “funny pages” as we called the comics.

It was  a small step from reading the paper to writing a paper.  One of my earliest “toys” was an old Remington manual typewriter like the one in the banner on my blog.  We kept it in the attic and I spent hours pounding away, writing “stories” for my own make believe newspapers.  Is it any surprise that I created a paper for my fifth grade classroom, or that I was the only eighth grader allowed to be in journalism in middle school?

I fell away from newspaper writing in high school – music occupied all my time there.  But I kept reading them, grabbing the Free Press off the porch every morning to get a first look at the news of the day, and read my favorite columnists – Bob Talbert, Nickie McWhirter, and then a young upstart guy named Mitch Albom (who wrote about sports but managed to relate them so well to life in general that I became a devoted reader.)

But sometime during the last 10 years my love affair with the newspaper ended.  It probably started when my Free Press carrier (no longer the neighbor kid down the street, but an adult driving by in a car during the wee hours of the morning) began throwing my paper at the end of our long driveway rather than putting it on the porch.   This meant I needed to put on some semblance of clothing before I could get my hands on the paper every day, and in the winter, it could also mean fishing the paper out of a heap of freshly fallen snow.

And then I began noticing there were more advertisements than stories, ads for cell phones and checking  account offers taking up entire pages that once held long columns of newsprint.  And the remaining news stories seemed poorly written, shorter and “dumbed down” for an audience with smaller attention spans and less education.

But of course the biggest death knell for my newspaper reading days was the advent of computer news.   There was all the news I needed to know – and then some – available at the touch of  mouse button.  

No smell of newprint or smears of ink on my fingers, but you can’t have everything, right?

Obviously electronic media are replacing the necessity for newspapers.  But as much as I love my computer, I sometimes miss holding the newspaper in my hand, the crackle of paper as I fold over the page and crease it down the middle.  I miss the stain left by my coffee cup when I set it down on the pile of read pages.  Miss tearing out a favorite cartoon, or clipping a column to save in my file of ideas for stories.

My friend L. is the biggest newspaper hound I’ve ever known.  He’s made  a daily ritual of  reading both Detroit papers cover to cover, first thing every morning.  At age 74, he’s not likely  to start reading them online.  In just a few days, when home delivery ceases, he’ll have to get in his car and drive to a newstand to get the paper.  I have no doubt that he’ll do that, probably taking his dog with him, at least for as long as these papers continue to publish their print editions.  His dedication to newsprint shames me a bit, me and my infidelity, my defection to the internet as my news source.   All this makes me wonder where news will come from twenty years from now, when I’m 74, what the relentless march of technological time has in store for me.  So far I’ve managed to keep up pretty well, but I wonder if  a day will come when I no can no longer comprehend how to operate the latest and greatest gadget, when I find myself stubbornly stuck in what has become hopelessly passe.

I’m saddened by the fact that newspapers aren’t read all over anymore, that even the word “news-paper” may someday become meaningless because the object it names is obsolete.   And I worry a little bit about what might become outmoded next.  But I realize there’s no stopping change  progress either, that the world moves on and sweeps us up in it, whether we like it or not. 

How about you?  Where do you read your news? Do you think electronic media will consume the newspaper entirely?


5 thoughts on “Black and White and Read All Over

  1. If the Detroit Free Press is going to weekend-only delivery, can other major newspapers be far behind?
    We take two here: “the old grey Lady” and a local daily that are read at kitchen table or counter with mugs of coffee to jumpstart the brains (such as they are) and the day. I need my crossword puzzle, I want the “funnies”, and if everybody goes to digital, what will happen to the quirky, interesting ‘back page’ truly local stories that define life in whatever area of the country as it is truly lived?

  2. I get my news online now, but Dad loves his paper. He still reads it with his morning coffee, beginning with the obits “to make sure he’s not in them.” I don’t know how long it can survive, but I can tell you that I hope it outlives Dad. He will sorely miss it if it’s the other way around.

  3. I watch the 6 o’clock news here in NZ. To be honest I’ve hardly picked up a paper to read in the last year, not because I don’t want to but because I just don’t have the time which sounds terrible. We have our local paper delivered, propped nicely in our letter-box. When I was living elsewhere we used to have the main paper delivered by having it chucked across the lawn, fortunately it was wrapped in plastic, but like you Becca I had to put something decent on if it landed in the gutter! 🙂 Sometimes I just risked it but always got caught by the nosey neighbour. Anyway, my hubby devours the newspaper as soon as it arrives and he’s quite capable of looking up the news on-line though he never gets the chance because I’m always hogging the computer. I don’t have time to read papers because I guess at present I’m so absorbed by my novel and now the writing Course.
    I think the inevitable will come though. The next generations ahead will be wondering what a ‘newspaper’ is, googling it perhaps to find out what all the fuss was about; and also wondering how on earth we ever coped without an ipod, mobile, twitter and whatever else is to come. Incomprehensible to them. I guess we felt the same about the tools of communication our ancestors once owned. Progress – I think we just accept and adjust but make the most of what we have now. Just my thoughts anyway…
    Great post, Becca.

  4. I think the Web and blogs are overpowering the print newspapers. It’s sad, and I don’t like it, but it seems to be happening more and more every day. 😦

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