I love this picture. It covers one wall in my favorite old haunt back in Raleigh. I’ve looked into the faces of those boys many times, wondering who they were and what happened to them. They make me long for a time when the newspaper was a sacred thing. A time when the smell of newsprint, the sound of a press running and the thud of the morning edition hitting your front porch were a vital, comforting part of the fabric of this country. But sadly, it seems those days, like these boys, are long gone.Today, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News announced they’d end daily home delivery, making them the first metropolitan newspapers in the U.S. to do so. You know what that means? No more paper boys.
Last week, the Tribune Company, which owns The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Cubs and various other newspapers, filed for bankruptcy.
And The New York Times, the nation’s paper of record, announced it would borrow $225 against its new building to ease cash flow problems.
The newspaper I used to work for has laid off probably half of my former co-workers and folded the section I once wrote for, the weekend entertainment tab, into the Friday daily section. The newspaper I currently freelance for has offered buyouts to staffers and significantly cut budgets. Cuts like these are happening at newspapers, big and small, all across the country.
And all of this breaks my heart.
Maybe I’m biased, but I think we need newspapers. Sure, the internet’s fast. And television is flashy. But the internet gets things wrong in its mad dash to throw the news up instantly. And television news only has so long to talk about one story, they can’t tell you the whole story.
But newspapers can. They can draw you into a big story with a 64-point font headline, but they can also keep you reading with details and perspective that you just can’t get anywhere else. They can dazzle you with an inventive, creative layout, and they can break your heart with a gut-wrenching story told with poignancy and humanity. They tell the stories you clip, and print the editions you keep–becoming time capsules of days gone by. Not to mention, reading a newspaper, unlike reading online, is far less likely to ruin your eyes.
And the people who work at papers, for the most part (and contrary to popular stereotypes), care about their readers. And they care about the stories they tell. I still hold a special place in my heart for each and every character I’ve met along my own journey as a reporter. And every letter or email from a reader, whether good or scathingly bad, I’ve not only read, but kept. Because it’s important. The news is important. The stories of people are important. And most reporters hold a feeling of reverence for their duty in telling these very important things.
So, what’s my point? Newspapers matter. And to let them die is to let an important part of our history, and our society, die. That’s something I’m just not ready to do.