Print for dessertJun 1, 2000 Write an essay on this topic.
Newspapers have been an important part of my life from the beginning. One of my most clear and consistent memories of my mother has her sitting at the kitchen table, in the chair nearest the door, intently reading the New Brunswick Home News. She read the paper so thoroughly that it became a family joke. She missed not one word.
Meanwhile, my dad sat at the other end of the table reading the New York Times, but not all of it. He had little interest in business, and almost none in sports, but he gave the national and international news a good read, and never skipped the editorials and the op-ed page. In my earliest youth, the New York Herald Tribune was a daily family staple too. And to the end of his long life, even after his eye sight was tricky, my dad faithfully read the Hamilton County News, the paper from the Adirondack town in which he had grown up.
In turn, I became addicted to the New York Times well before my 21st birthday. It became so much a part of my daily routine that a delivery snag could ruin my day. I remember a Christmas maybe 10 years ago when the spouse had to work and our sons, well into their teens, were spending the blessed morn sleeping in. Feeling forlorn, I went out in search of comfort in the form of my favorite read. From long habit, I knew just which places would be open on a holiday.
I checked the convenience store. Sold out. I ran to the news kiosk in the middle of town. Sold out too. Revving the car up, I headed toward neighboring towns, hitting every convenience store along the way. Nothing. Sometime before noon I gave up, and I still remember how utterly bereft I felt.
Years later, I began to make frequent trips to Florida to help care for my dad, who endured a couple of years of ill health there. One of my first missions was to find out where I could get my daily fix, which by then had come to include The Wall Street Journal along with my long-beloved New York Times. Through trial and error, I discovered that Albertson supermarkets --- Bless them! --- got in lots of both papers and didn't run out until well into the evening, if then.
Literally, I found it hard to get through a day without my papers. That was then.
Now, nearly halfway through the year 2000, I sometimes go a week at a time without buying either of my favorite newspapers. I didn't plan it this way. Honest. It just happened. I spend my days on the computer, where I make my living, communicate with my friends, play games, check my stocks, buy cat food, plants and birthday gifts and, God help me, get my news.
You see, it is there. It is hard to avoid. And it is fresh. While the paper is still crying out: "Close election called!," the Internet has the election results. It's not so much that I seek out the news on the computer, it's that I come upon it as I go about my other tasks. Often, headlines are on the same page as stock quotes or the search engine start page. Some headlines inevitably draw me in, and I read the whole story.
I have always hated television news, still do. But while that form of electronic news is almost always superficial, and therefore, sometimes misleading, Internet news can be had in any degree of depth you want. Full text stories from all the major dailies are easily available, as are commentaries, some of them excellent. Local news is here too, along with specialized news. Emerging companies, baseball, weather, politics; all that and more is available in everything from lite to thorough and insightful.
Even one year ago, I would have said -- argued strongly -- that print will rule for at least another generation. Now I'm not so sure. Mass transit commuters will keep reading, no doubt, as will solitary office lunchers, and anyone whose company has not yet installed the Internet on computer terminals. But the rest of us? I don't know. And I think those who spend a lot of time on the Internet for work may be the first to drop their subscriptions.
That said, my love for my newspapers is undiminished. But now they are not a necessity, but a luxury. Today, for instance, I pretty much cleared the decks before starting a new job on Monday, and decided I deserved a little down time. The first thing I did was run to my neighborhood bodega, where I rejoiced to find both the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal still in stock.
I carried both home to my front porch, opened all the windows to let in the sounds of the river and the smell of honeysuckle, and happily read the afternoon away. At leisure, I got the stories behind the headlines, read each and every letter to the editor, and enjoyed dozens of features. Delightful.
By chance, today is Circuits day in the New York Times and there were several letters to the editor commenting on the possible newspaper extinction issue, which apparently had been addressed in a recent essay. Writers, for the most part, were saying good riddance to paper. In one letter a man told about how thrilled his wife was to be rid of ink on her furniture. They each now read the news from five dailies on his and hers Mac laptops, have cancelled their New York Times subscription, and profess themselves to be as happy as clams.
I weep for my paper as I read comments like those, but I know that, for better or worse, the end is near for paper newspapers. Paradoxically, they have gotten a big boost from Internet advertisers desperate to spread the word about their new services. For the moment, the printing presses will keep turning. I hope the ad dollars keep coming and we can all enjoy quiet breaks with our old print friends for many years.
But even as I happily turned pages on my porch, I knew I had a cheatin' heart. I knew that my stolen afternoon was a dalliance rather than an integral part of my life.
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