The Changing of the Guard
Sometimes seemingly normal events have a way of putting people in their place, which is what happened to me this past Sunday. During the week, my subscription to the Wall Street Journal arrives Monday through Saturday but on Sunday I buy the New York Times and spend the morning reading all the sections (except Sports and Automobiles) with special attention given to the Real Estate, Metropolitan, Styles, Business, and Sunday Review sections. Both newspapers provide a different perspective (read: conservative and liberal) on the events of the week with the Sunday Times providing a lighter, more entertaining read on the most relaxing day of the week.
This past Sunday, I was at a Whole Foods in Connecticut so I picked up the New York Times and while I was trying to hand the cashier $6, I noticed she took apart the paper and was looking for something, which I realized was additional bar codes to scan because she thought I was buying several newspapers. I gently spoke up and told her the newspaper was, in fact, one paper and that the Sunday New York Times is always very thick. The realization and the meaning of this encounter hit me like a ton of bricks. The young cashier doesn’t read newspapers so of course, she doesn’t know the Sunday edition is a thick newspaper. This knowledge is probably limited to those of us born before 1970; those of us who still relish the printed word on paper.
My husband and I often get nostalgic for things of the past and newspapers are one of those coveted daily pleasures we both enjoy reading. We’ve been known to sit outside country stores in rural areas on Sunday mornings with steaming cups of coffee waiting for the newspaper delivery to make sure we get a copy before the rest of the baby boomers buy them out because as the years pass by, we notice fewer and fewer newspapers being delivered to rural areas. Our idea of a decadent morning is to sit in our reading chairs with copies of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, and the New York Post: four completely different newspapers, each entertaining in its own way. So, suffice to say I am one of those dinosaurs who will mourn deeply for the newspaper should it disappear.
When we lived overseas we read the Financial Times (unequivocably British) and the International Herald Tribune (my favorite newspaper) and when we travel to Boston, we read the Boston Globe or to Washington, DC, we pick up the Washington Post. Although the newspaper business has taken a back seat to television and the internet, I cheered when Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post from the Graham family for $250 million last October. Ten years ago, that would have been a steal; now people are saying it’s a mistake but a mistake that Bezos can easily afford to make because he has the deep pockets to keep the paper going. I’m hoping that Bezo’s tendency to look forward and invest heavily in the long-term will turn around the paper’s woes (i.e. declining readership and advertising).
I spend a lot of time on the internet and although I don’t generally get the news on-line, I realize most people rely on television or the internet to stay abreast of current events and my guess is this won’t change. The screen is just too quick and the newspaper I’m holding in my hand today was printed last night and reflects events of days past. But, what if the newspaper is viewed differently in the future – as a medium for writers and a source of knowledge and entertainment for readers? The information would be timely in the way that on-going current events (i.e. the Israeli Palestinian conflict) and cultural trends (i.e. education issues) are, almost like a daily magazine for those of us who don’t always want to keep our eyes glued to a screen. Possible: yes; Probable: maybe with someone like Bezos talking the helm but I’m not holding my breath. Until then, I’m enjoying the papers while I can.