Aug 06 2013

On Nostalgia, Newspapers

Published by at 6:00 pm under Internet,Philosophy,Rants,Sad,Technology

I was watching Gone With the Wind yesterday, and it’s a truly awful movie. I mean, I can’t at this moment think of anything enjoyable or redeeming about it unless I missed Rhett slapping Scarlett. Did I miss that? I stopped watching when poor old Scarlet sees her mother dead. In the meantime, Melanie  is deathly ill in the wagon with a newborn, and the horse is dead on the ground. Terrible, cruel, self-absorbed Scarlet.

Anyway, my point is this. They say, over and over again, in this terrible movie that the grand old South is passing away (In fact, they say it is gone with the wind… multiple, hideous times). I’m not a nostalgic person, generally. I can pretty easily dismiss societies which stagnate, rituals which lack personal meaning, thoughts or beliefs unsupported by evidence.

But then The Washington Post was sold yesterday and I realized that I am nostalgic, that I yearn for the newspaper of my childhood. That I am watching newspapers chopped up and burned in front of my eyes. That it makes me feel like a whiny, helpless, slave girl-slapping Scarlett.

I read the Washington Post as a kid, before they even had a KidsPost. I read every comic strip, even the ones which I couldn’t make sense out of (*cough* Zippy the Pinhead *cough*). I read the Business section, mostly to stare at the charts of stock figures like an aspie. As I grew up, my father would read headlines to me in the morning. I started reading the Sunday paper in its entirety when I was in junior high, devouring the Post Magazine, which was probably my favorite section each week for the feature writing and Dave Barry’s column.

The feel of the newspaper was special – the thin but resilient pages, the way the printed word actually felt smudgey on your fingers. The smell of the paper and the ink, the crisp sound of the pages bending and shifting. I miss those things – I miss the smell of coffee mixing with the smell of ink.

But mostly what I miss about newspapers was the surprise. When I picked up a paper, my eyes scanned each page. I read the headline, maybe the first paragraph of everything. Then I came back through to read the entirety of articles on the topics or in the writing styles that interested me. Newspapers are about accessing *all* news and then determining what effects you – practically and emotionally. But the end result is you see the total picture. You have the whole paper – almost a wingspan across, in your field of vision. It’s a different world view.

Nowadays, I read the “paper” online mostly. It ruins the experience. I click on the articles that concern me and I generally don’t learn very much new. I don’t learn anything that changes my worldview. And that’s the actual paper I pay for online access to. So the writing is good, the coverage generally in depth.
Worse is when I go on, and just see what the headlines are for the day. Click on 90% of those articles and you’ll get a summation of something that happened. Most of the time you won’t even get an idea of how this news fits into a larger picture, what the impact is, how it could affect you. And that’s the best case scenario for that 90% of articles. Because all too often the article I read is exaggerated, inaccurate, fear-mongering nonsense. And that’s on all ends of the political spectrum. News without newspapers has lost its inherent value to society – it has lost its sense of time, it has lost its responsibility to the people it serves, its ability to extend our worlds and our views with one well-written article or one well-designed spread at a time.

And what can I do? I have a proper paper delivered to my home — Michael and I have generally subscribed to a real newspaper for as long as we’ve been living together. So every morning I get a paper, and most mornings I don’t even read it. It’s not that I don’t have time, I do. I make a bowl of oatmeal and linger over a cup of coffee, usually with the novel I’m in the middle of or a literary magazine (some mornings I even turn on NPR while I’m making lunches). It takes energy to read a paper, and a clean table and the ability to give a crap about the world, the whole world. I know the news, still. But I’m missing all the fleshy connections.

I use my kindle when I travel, but when I go to bed to read I grab a book off one of our many book shelves. I use Amazon MP3 almost exclusively to listen to music on my phone but when I’m home, I grab a record and drop the needle. I stream video, but I still own hundreds of movies. I can see that I am outdated, perhaps dangerously so. I know that real-live newspapers are probably well on their way to extinction. Unlike vinyl, which is essentially a luxury item that has found a new market with luddites like me, newspapers are seen as a commodity – and it is likely too expensive and difficult to distribute a real-live paper for very much longer. I do believe that we, consumers, should expect to pay for news: that good writing and good newspaper design are not cheap, and not unimportant.

Then a different movie comes to mind – women traipse up and down Paris streets, shouting “New York Herald Tribune,” on black and white film. But that was long ago, long before me.

I would hate for the convenience of the technological age to replace the art of the newspaper.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “On Nostalgia, Newspapers”

  1. Dad says:

    pshaw… just watch Fox news, they’ll tell you all you need to know. Move along citizen.

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