So what, many say, it’s a dead media—no one under the age of 50 reads newspapers anyway.
And maybe they are right, and maybe other sources will fill in the blanks. In many ways, they have, as far as raw news goes. The internet has been killing expensive-to-build-and-operate brick and mortar stores for years—Best Buy has turned into basically a catalogue showroom for the internet retailers—and Kindle and other e-readers are doing their best to kill bound books; I guess newspapers are the logical next casualty.
They say me and people like me are dinosaurs. I suppose to them I would have been hanging onto my buggy-whip when Mr. Ford started his mass production. And maybe they are right.
In the dark ages of the late 1970′s and 1980′s, after I got out of high school, most decent sized cities had at least two newspapers. Little Rock, in 1981 had a population of about 150,000 and two papers. I took both. One was an afternoon paper and one was an evening paper. When I moved to Tulsa in 1985, there were two. Now both towns have one. And New Orleans, with an MSA of 1.2 million, will have none.
Why do newspapers matter? I think to me it is that someone has to sit and decide what gets in there, what is more important than everything else clamoring for position. A page one story still has more oomph to it than one buried on page D11. Please comment on this observation and belief you readers who have worked or still work in the newspaper biz.
And I do something odd: I write letters to the editor and guest columns. Why? While it may be a dying (it ain’t quite dead yet) media, it still has 90,000 daily and 130,000 Sunday readers, and it is kind of a kick to see words above or under your name distributed to this large of a potential audience. Maybe my rate of publication to submissions is high because no one else writes in and they are starving for column inches to fill or maybe, someone choses my stuff over that of others. And while I may be deluded, I like to think it is the latter.
Newspapers matter because they are a local thing. Yes, we can get probably better coverage of important issues elsewhere, but when it comes to the local sports or spelling bees or charity events, nothing compares. There is just something good about seeing your kid in the paper holding a trophy or getting an award. Newspaper articles are saved for decades and cherished. Maybe this is changing also, but to me, these things matter.
Newspaper also are markers of events and societal changes: the iconic photo of Truman holding the newspaper above his head which proclaimed his loss; the moon landing—basically everything of significance is on page one in “Hello Jesus “font size. When the last newspaper dies, what will take their place for this?
Yes, I am a dinosaur and I will continue to read papers until I can no longer hold or see them. If the Tulsa World perishes, I may take a Dallas paper; when it dies, probably the New York Times. I may be a dinosaur, but I am not oblivious. Eventually, probably the Old Gray Lady will go also and the last paper published in the country will not be the Philadelphia Inquirer but the National Enquirer. Then I will be force to change and I will cry on that day. But until then, let the gray fingers of paper reading continue.