Tuesday, February 03, 2009

On Newspapers

I represent one of those dying cultural anachronisms. I still value, no, cherish, the newspaper. I read a number of newspapers online, and get the vast majority of the information I consume on the internet, to be sure. But I still value the daily newspaper, whether it is the Odessa American delivered to my door every morning, The New York Times delivered on Sunday, the San Antonio Express-News when we are down there, or the ritual of making sure to grab the local paper when I am traveling, unless it comes to the door of a hotel room, which is always a nice surprise.

I grew up reading my local paper and The Boston Globe that my stepfather picked up every day. Without descending into cliche, I love the tactile, tangible element of the daily paper, and I do believe that there are things you catch while reading through the newspaper that you do not when browsing the handy headlines and choosing what to click on when it arrives in your email inbox.

But we keep hearing that the newspaper is dead, and all signs certainly point that way. I hope something happens to salvage the print newspaper, but within a generation I would guess that the daily paper will be greatly diminished, if not an entirely defunct species. In the latest New Yorker, Harvard historian Jill Lepore (whose regular work there is fantastic) has an article on early American newspapers in which a subtext is that the medium's very survival was always in question. The goal may be to reassure, though the realities of this market are rather different from the colonial and early national era. It may not be entirely reassuring, but her piece will at least remind you of the resilience of the daily (or weekly) printed word.

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