#154 Reading an actual newspaper

We used to read newspapers.

Do you remember waking up on Saturday morning and tiptoeing onto the ice cold porch to grab that tightly wound paper in the plastic bag?

After tossing it on the kitchen table you’d tear it open and fill the air with the stale stench of newspaper ink, hot plastic bag, and morning dew. Next you peeled off that disgusting black rubber band and unroll it till you had a bumpy beautiful stack of crisp fresh news.

And there was something beautiful about the paper before it was opened.

Strawberry jam fingers hadn’t dog-eared corners, flyers weren’t scattered everywhere, and unapologetic backwards-folding hadn’t flipped sections inside out, making them flimsy and disorganized — pages at different heights, untethered middle sheets slipping onto the cold linoleum floor.

Yes, it was just a clear window to the world on your kitchen table.

When you flipped open the paper there were kids huddling under cars in distant countries, stern-eyebrowed generals swearing in to lead violent armies, and tornados blasting barns to bits, all photographed inches away, just yesterday, and sitting in your hands right now.

Reading an actual newspaper came without distractions.

Windows couldn’t pop up, email wasn’t a click away, and detergent jingles didn’t scream out of random corners. Everything faded into the backyard background as you got sucked into tales of police corruption, stunned by fiery photos, or captivated by a long two-page profile of the local athlete on a comeback bid.

And after reading for a long time your fingers turned black with ink smudges smearing your body like tiny tattoos. It was like the newspaper marked you. While you were leaving greasy prints in its cracks and corners, it was leaving something with you. In a way you touched each other, traded molecules, and became one.

In addition to the ink, maybe you connected with the columnists. You learned from them, were challenged by them, and read everything they wrote. You hated them some days and loved them on others. Whether it was the sharp-tongued sports writer who hated ownership but loved the game, the provocative political pundit with the bleeding heart, or the snobby movie critic with biting reviews that kept you laughing, you could always count on opinions. Crystal clear voices and friendly faces in tiny boxes felt like chatting with friends. You even missed them while they were away and were met by a line on F2 saying “Dave Perkins will be back next week.”

That was when the game was a story instead of a score, ideas weren’t reduced to bullet points from news feeds, and movie reviews weren’t dumbed down into online percentages with lines like “59% of people like Rochelle, Rochelle.”

That was when newspapers were more than information.

They were entertainment too.

Little poems caught your eye in obituaries, colorful characters pulled you into cartoons, cheeky letters to the editor got you laughing, and crossword puzzles kept you and dad guessing for hours. Flipping through the paper was a little escape out of your head. It was a twenty minute vacation into a faraway world where you were watching Olympic games, attending film festivals, and trying new banana bread recipes, all from your front porch.

Quiet authority was baked into every page of the paper, too. Behind the stories was a team of experts deciding what was news and what wasn’t. Sometimes they went in-depth, sometimes they sent reporters overseas, and sometimes they created a weekly series to crack big cases in your hometown.

Instead of clicking the most popular articles there was something about flipping past everything all stitched together and making up your own mind. It was slow, meandering, and adventurous, instead of flashing headlines hitting you like a rubber mallet to the forehead. Album reviews, stock quotes, and relationship advice were waiting every day for new listeners, investors, and lovers.

“Just think,” my dad would say as I was growing up. “A team of people spent weeks digging up stories around the world, taking pictures and writing everything down, arranging and printing it on paper, and carrying it right to our front door…for fifty cents!”

Newspapers helped decide what was important and acted like filters against information overload. Costs prevented spam, space limited excess, and daily deadlines prevented constant updates from buzzing on cell phones all day. When there was a big sale at the corner shop, they splurged for a full page ad. When a new school was proposed in town, they posted notice for a local meeting. When your neighbor’s daughter finished college, there she was in her graduation cap, flashing a big toothy grin, in fuzzy black and white.

Clipped and cut into squares and rectangles were painted patches of our city and our friends and our lives.

Yes, long, long time ago, I can still remember … how that paper used to make me smile.

Now fat weekend papers are getting thinner, foreign bureaus are getting dimmer, and there’s bad news on the door step, with flat wire stories replacing local depth.

Sure, time changes, life changes, the world spins and moves on. Maybe we’re all fitter, happier, and more productive, and maybe we’re better informed with wider choices, greater access, and more transparency.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy those papers from our past, too.

Next time you pass a newspaper stand, next time you snap a dirty rubber band, next time you crinkle thin sheets in your hand, enjoy the feeling, enjoy the moment, and just enjoy the view.

Let’s remember to enjoy reading an actual newspaper.

Let’s remember to remember it’s


Photos from: here, here, here, here, and here

58 thoughts on “#154 Reading an actual newspaper

  1. It’s like a momentary reprieve from the world around you as you delve into the carefully selected, back-checked and thoughtfully worded place that is the newspaper. It’s a satisfying feeling to have it in your hands and to flip through the pages. Good stuff.

  2. One day recently while reading a newspaper, I glanced down at the lower right hand corner of the newspaper page to check the time, as if that piece of paper could magically display the current time. That was a rather unsettling moment for me, to realize my computer (and all its little widgets) had become so much the norm. Thanks for the reminder of the sheer enjoyment of the printed page arriving at one’s doorstep.

  3. In India we still read actual newspapers. I don’t see that changing here, simply because we don’t trust e-content.

    1. Untrue. My granddad recently took to reading news online. And this is a man who rolled his eyes at our first desktop, a man who was born before India was.

      PS: There’s tons of trustworthy e-content. All the major papers have ’em.
      PPS: But yes, newspapers are still alive and kicking.

    1. While that is true, if you asked the commenters when was the last time they read a newspaper, I’d be willing to bet that most of them haven’t in a long time. It’s been years for me.

        1. It’s actually a financial thing. I’ve had to cut a lot of perks from my budget in recent years, and I can’t justify subscribing to a newspaper when there are ways to get the news for free. I really don’t want newspapers to die, but I just can’t afford to support them. Sorry, newspapers! :(

      1. I just read a newspaper this Sunday. Even though I am a broke college student, I will always pass up going to a show or dinner to keep my Sunday subscription to the New York Times.

        1. My college gets all kinds of newspapers, you should check the library!
          But I agree, when I grow up, i will keep reading them

  4. I still read the paper. We get one delivered here at work and since I’m the first one here, I get to read it first. I flip through the local news and look a bit at the other news, but I always take time out to read the comics. I read the classifieds, the obituaries, and annoucements as well. I also love the coupons! I’m a coupon girl.
    Yeah, I still look online for news, but I love to sit and read the paper every morning.

  5. On Sunday morning I would snuggle between mom and dad in bed and read the comics while they read the rest.

    Then, my brothers introduced me to Silly Putty, and we would lift the pictures of Beetle Bailey or Dagwood and Blondie and stretch them out for laughs.

    When I was in college, I met a woman at the airport who gave me her copy of the Wall Street Journal. She said “Read it. You’ll be surprised how much of this has to do with you.” That chance encounter changed a lot of things for me.

    Love the news paper…

    1. Thanks for the reminder of Silly Putty on the Sunday comics! What simple fun that was! I still love the Sunday comics just as much as when I was a kid, too.

  6. As an aspiring writer this one is one of my favorites. It’s written so beautifully. The description and the feeling are all so real. Touche Neil.

  7. Not to mention all the important uses the newspaper has AFTER you’ve read it: being crumpled up and placed in the center of the carefully constructed teepee of twigs to get your fire going with a roaring start; covering the floor so your toddler can fingerpaint with impunity; getting ripped to pieces then dunked in paste then plastered into a paper mache pinata of your favourite politician; wrapping those greasy fish and chips from the roadside stand; lining your birdcage so your bird can …well…you know. Or just getting recyled in the circle of newspaper life to be made into another newspaper on another day.

        1. The last time I moved, I looked for old newspapers, and suddenly realized I didn’t have any. Had to settle for scrap paper, and old shopping magazines…while it did the trick, you couldn’t help but miss the extra large newspaper sheets :(

    1. Here’s another one: insulation! Put a layer of newspaper at the top of your cooler, and see the difference it makes.

  8. What a beautiful picture you’ve painted. You’ve given me a new appreciation for the newspaper. =)

    Favorites lines:
    “…just yesterday, and sitting in your hands right now.”
    “Windows couldn’t pop up, email wasn’t a click away, and detergent jingles didn’t scream out of random corners.” (that’s so annoying!)
    “It was like the newspaper marked you.”

  9. Remember when what was written was more believable.
    Every day but especially saturday’s, cuz they were in colour, we couldn’t wait for the comics and zodiac in the Vancouver Sun.
    Delivering papers is also a great job.
    Mary, thank you for the memory of fun with silly putty.
    I tried not long ago but I don’t think the ink’s the same.
    Still we all like to read the local news and see community in action!
    This is an emotional one Neil. VERY well done.
    Thank you.

  10. My dad was a newpaper reporter/columnist. I grew up loving newspapers. Funny how over the years I’ve let them go. Just the one thought you bring up about no pop up ads is enough to make me go out and buy one this weekend and snap my laptop shut for a day.

  11. Beautiful love poem to the daily written word, the newspaper. Though I’d like to think the newspaper in hardcopy will be around forever, unfortunately, I foresee its eventual demise. When that happens, on its tombstone should be engraved your post, Neil.

  12. Man…This reads like an epitaph. I just graduated from a top notch Journalism school, and I am scared out of my mind about what is happening to the news right now… The format change is killing a lot of jobs and really hurting the quality of the content.

  13. I love everything about this post. A newspaper and a pot of tea is my IDEAL way to spend a Saturday morning. Scrolling down a screen just ain’t the same…

  14. This post was bittersweet. I hate to see newspapers go to the wayside. Let’s resurrect them! Or at least pause and take a moment to appreciate their value like this awesome post has!

  15. “You’ve got the power…” allow the fear to motivate you!
    As the great peaceful warrior, Ghandi said, “You CAN be the changes you want to see!”
    And the world in news will be a better place, for you and everyone who loves to read!
    Wherever you are, as Neil teaches in TEDx speech, awareness, attitude and authenticity create awesome.
    You saw and shared this comment from your heart because you have the integrity to make a difference.
    Your dream in pravda!
    Thank you:)

  16. my family has a subscription for a national newspaper. ^^ my dad still reads the paper and encourages us to read it as well by placing pieces of it throughout the entire flat XD

  17. I’m a reporter at a weekly community newspaper and I think they’re going strong, even if the big dailies are struggling. Who else can tell people what the big decisions are that affect them in their home?
    Anyways, this made me thankful I’ve stayed with newspaper and not made the transition to a job online. It’s nice to know someone appreciates the work involved.

    1. Community newspapers have a lot to offer that the big guys don’t. I’m glad to hear that they’re doing well. Keep up the good work!

  18. Usually I do not learn post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice post.

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