Monday, February 16, 2009

a dying breed?


i traipsed out to the mailbox this morning in sweatpants and rubber boots, through several inches of fluffy white snow. i had to get my newspapers. it's what i do every morning. we get two daily newspapers--berlingske tidende (denmark's answer to the nytimes) and information (an extremely independent, critical of all political parties newspaper). and on fridays, we get weekend avisen, which is packed full of in-depth articles, book reviews and art/culture-related stuff. it takes me the whole week to read it properly. and i love that.

growing up, my dad had a weekly newspaper, so i guess i grew up knowing the importance of being informed and of getting your information through the medium of the newspaper. today, we have so many other ways of getting our news--television primarily, but radio and of course, the internet. during the election, i was a daily reader of sites like the huffington post and andrew sullivan's daily dish. but now i stop by only sporatically. i'm back to my daily newspapers, which are delivered to my door, as my primary news source. most days, i also flip on BBC world and/or CNN when i'm making lunch, but i'm a newspaper reader, first and foremost.

i like the freedom it gives me to skim articles that don't interest me that much and to sit and really read the ones that do. i like that there's usually more there than the soundbite that's been played and replayed on CNN. there's something special about having the physical newspaper in my hands or on the table before me. the smell of the ink, the way pictures print on the newsprint. i just love it.

and now i hear that it may be disappearing. newspapers, even the big ones, are in trouble these days. with pressure from internet advertising, they're having trouble finding their place in today's wired world. people get their news on the go, through their handheld devices. tho' honestly, i find a newspaper to be one of the greatest handheld devices ever invented.  it's compact, you can tuck it in your bag, you can read it on the train, you don't have to wait for it to load over a slow connection and it doesn't suddenly go away when you enter a tunnel.

i can see that the newspapers i read have put a lot into their websites. their best reporters are all blogging now too. the news is more interactive. they're more actively seeking photos from their readers and you can easily go to the web and upload your photos or letters to the editor these days. these, are, as i see it, improvements--we should take a more active role in how we interact with the news. but it's clear that print media has struggled with this transition and been slow to change.

but i feel romantic towards newspapers. i have a picture in my head of reporters hot on the trail of a story, bursting into the newsroom, clacking it out on a keyboard and rushing it in just ahead of deadline. a real, full story. not like today's cameras trained on stories that might not really be stories, as they're happening. in the "old days," stories were really stories and they were sniffed out and researched by reporters before they came to press. editors were tough on their reporters, making them check and double check their sources and get the story right before printing it. in other words, being sure there was a story before they went with it. and that's something that's being lost in today's information flow.

but it still has a place, doesn't it? we still have a need for deeper stories, for more of the details than fit into a 20- or 30-second soundbite. that's why i love my weekend avisen, they're still looking upon stories that way. where will the world be if the only access to news stories we get is from the ticker on the bottom of the screen? i think the world will be a poorer place indeed.

when i lived in chicago, i would always go down to 53rd st. and get a sunday new york times from a sweet old black man who may very well have been homeless. he always had a stack of NYT outside the dunkin' donuts on a sunday morning. i would go in, buy him a coffee and get my NYT from him. he knew i was coming and he would even save me one if i was running a bit later than normal. i'm not sure where he was getting those papers, as they had people's names and addresses on them, but i tried not to think about that, because it was part of my sunday morning ritual. it will be such a tragedy for us all if those fat, packed-with-stories sunday papers go away. not to mention the lack of interaction with other people than sitting at home, staring at your computer to get your news. my life was richer for my sunday morning exchange with old mr. jackson (yes, i even remember his name), even if he probably was stealing those papers, you had to admire his entrepreneurial spirit and his persistence (he was there every sunday without fail).

so, get out there and buy a newspaper, sit down with a cup of steaming coffee or tea and really read it. you'll be amazed where it takes you.

6 comments:

beth said...

I start my mornings with the paper and a cup of tea, too....so I'm right there with you in your feelings about the fact that we can't let the economy take this away from us...it's just not fair !!!

B said...

I'm hopeful for newspapers. Even before the economic troubles began, people were predicting their disappearance. Those were people who saw TV and the Internet as newspapers' enemies, but I think all these media complement each other. The Internet provides fast updates, TV shows you what's going on, but newspapers are still the best source for in-depth analisis. Like you, I specially love the weekeend newspapers, The Guardian in England and El Pais in Spain also take me a whole week to read!

julochka said...

beth--i'm happy to hear it.

b--i love the guardian too! i grab one whenever i'm flying. :-)

Molly said...

Funny - I've just read our weekly cover-to-cover in one sitting - the first time I've managed to do that in months!
Loved every minute.

Maggie May said...

i totally agree. i love newspapers, and read the in depth bits and literary/art reviews so happily. i loved this entry.

Char said...

one of my favorite weekend things to do is read the paper with my cuppa.