Monday, December 8, 2008

The times they are a' changin'

As with most couples, Jim and I have routines that we cherish. You know - those simple, not-a-big-deal kinds of things that you miss when your partner's not around and that you look forward to even if you don't always realize it.

One of our simple pleasures is the morning paper. By the time I arrive downstairs in the morning, Jim has usually been up for an hour, the coffee is ready to brew, the morning news is on, the fire is burning in the woodstove, and Jim is in the early clues of the daily crossword puzzle. For the next hour-and-a-half or so, we drink coffee, read the paper and pay attention to the weather forecast. We also occasionally get updates from t.v. on news stories and make random guesses at the answer to the daily question.

Neither of us is an avid sports fan, so that section of the newspaper almost always gets short shrift. Jim isn't crazy about human interest stories, while I devour them along with all the local news. I usually just skim the news from Far Away Places With Strange-Sounding Names, but Jim stays current on all the international events. We both love the editorial pages, the comics, and The Edge.

Throughout this very special time, one of us will interrupt the other's reading with a tidbit that we think might be of particular interest, or if we recognize a name. Sometimes the news will elicit a bit of personal history from one or the other of us. In short, our morning news is a shared activity. Some days there's so much sharing that it takes a couple of hours to get through the paper; other days there's so little of interest that we're done in an hour. Whichever it is, it's shared, special time that means a lot to both of us.

But I think it's going away.

The newspaper is getting smaller (except for the Christmas ads!), and more and more often there is a teaser, followed by "for the rest of the story, logon to ." Now I have to point out that I am no technophobe. I love computers. I've built them, repaired them, upgraded them; I've written programs, been a beta tester, and designed and published web pages. I've been on the internet since before there were graphics. When I'm not reading, I can frequently be found with my laptop - well, in my lap! And I read the occasional news story, forwarding interesting tidbits to the people in my life.

But it's a solitary activity, not shared in the sense of reading a newspaper together. And sometimes I want to read more of the story, but not badly enough to drag my laptop downstairs. And by the time I've finished the paper, I'm usually not in the mood to look up some story that briefly caught my interest - I have things to do!

I know that a lot of people enjoy getting their news online, and more and more people choose to not subscribe to a daily newspaper. I understand that the costs of ink, paper, labor, and production are all reaching prohibitive levels and that newspapers are looking at more cost-effective ways to disseminate information. I'm just sorry that this time-honored tradition of news is falling out of favor, and that it will soon fall by the wayside.

I used to think that it wouldn't happen in my lifetime, but I'm slowly coming to accept that it's going to happen a lot sooner than I'd like. I think "USA Today" will soon be the only way to get our news in print, and I think that's too bad. I love the feel of the paper in my hands. I love the unexpected surprises I sometimes get from stories I probably would have missed online. I love the activity of reading something I can fold up and swat a fly with or balance on my knees while I eat a bowl of cereal.

Somehow, I just don't get that same feeling from a computer!


  1. I'm with you, even though I read plenty of news online I still love having a paper to read.

  2. Your morning routine sounds cozy and the perfect way to begin a day. I am guilty of not receiving a paper newspaper but only because the paper available is not worth the trees cut for its printing. I will sometimes purchase a Sunday paper because it contains more substance and has the ads I love to browse. If you had told me 10 years ago that someday I wouldn't receive a newspaper I would not have believed it. There is something about holding the newspaper in hand that makes it more of an "experience."

    I loved your "Far Away Places with Strange Sounding Names" description!

  3. I just heard a story on GPB ( about this. I think it was that the Atlanta Journal Constitution was going to have to scale back on the area it could deliver subscriptions to.