Save a day for print

Newspapers inform and entertain by design.


It’s Sunday, and yours truly has taken a break to peruse a small stack of newspapers.

I pay for two online subscriptions, to dailies in Maine and Massachusetts. Yet, whenever I dart into the grocery store for a bag of carrots or a half-gallon of milk, I still find myself swerving to the dark hall just outside the restrooms where a rack of print editions stands against the wall. Depending on the change in my pocket and the weakness of my will, I’ll buy a Washington Post or The New York Times and one or two of the local weeklies, and then grab any of the free circulation publications that look interesting.

I read a story or two as soon as I get home, but invariably I’m called to other pursuits, and the newspapers stack up on top of the bookcase until I return to them, later.

Later came today.

In addition to a briefs box explaining how 403(b) plans work (ah, for financial clarity!) and recommendations about health insurance for overseas travelers (I wish!), the stories I read this morning included:

  • “A 9/11 Parable, Staged for Samaritans” (on reactions of the residents of Gander, Newfoundland, to a new show about their generosity as unexpected hosts of the passengers and crews of 38 planes grounded in their town after 9/11), NYT, 11/1/2016;
  • “Absentee votes don’t change outcome” (election results for the local county, including absentee ballots counted on Nov. 10), Record Observer, 11/18/2016;
  • “Weathering the Storm” (the role abortion policy seems to be playing in fetal defects due to the Zika virus, Colombia versus Brazil), NYT, 11/1/2016;
  • “In Defense of the Donkey” (the history, role and fate of donkeys), NYT, 11/1/2016;
  • “For Standing Up, Scorn” (Chobani’s founder faces threats and online taunts for hiring refugees), NYT, 11/1/2016;
  • “Taking the Plunge Into the Podcast Pool” (a description and opinion piece about the Times’ foray into podcasting), NYT, 10/23/16;
  • “A Detailed Political Geography of the U.S.” (a two-page spread showing 2012 presidential election results by zip code), NYT, 11/1/2016;
  • “Go Midwest, Young Hipster” (on the increasing concentration of Democrats in blue states and Republicans in red, as like moves toward like), NYT, 10/23/2016;
  • “PA municipalities begin uphill paddle to reach runoff goals, one stroke at a time” (on steps taken by some of the state’s 700 communities that lie within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to meet stormwater runoff goals), Bay Journal, November 2016;
  • “Can He Have Your Attn:, Please?” (an online entrepreneur’s topical videos drive attention to issues), NYT, 10/23/2016;
  • “Under the Din of the Race Lies a Once and Future Threat: Cyberwarfare,” NYT, 11/7/2016;
  • “How States Moved Toward Stricter Voter ID Laws,” NYT, 11/6/2016;
  • “A Coup Against the Supreme Court” (editorial), 11/7/2016;
  • “Europeans View Obama’s Exit With Mix of Admiration and Regret,” NYT, 11/7/2016.

Fascinating stuff. And what a pleasure to read it in the flesh, as it were.

I’ve always regarded a good newspaper as a college education for a quarter (well now, it’s $1.25 for the local weekly and $2.50 for a weekday edition of the NYT). Sure, everything I read this morning was available online, and more. But it wasn’t half as much fun to read it there; nor, I wager, would I have retained as much from reading it on screen. I may not even have found the stories at all, for serendipity plays a role when one leafs through a printed newspaper. In a recent online piece, Jack Shafer of Politico explained some of the reasons why printed papers work so well:

“… Print—particularly the newspaper—is an amazingly sophisticated technology for showing you what’s important, and showing you a lot of it. The newspaper has refined its user interface for more than two centuries. Incorporated into your daily newspaper’s architecture are the findings from field research conducted in thousands of newspapers over hundreds of millions of editions. Newspaper designers have created a universal grammar of headline size, typeface, place, letter spacing, white space, sections, photography, and illustration that gives readers subtle clues on what and how to read to satisfy their news needs. …”Why Print News Still Rules

(Please consider reading all of  Shafer’s piece — it’s terrific.)

A post we published earlier this month (Time for a reboot) concluded that online distribution must be part of sustainable newspaper business models to come.

Yup, but God willing, online and mobile news will remain only a part of the model. For there are few pleasures as worthwhile and inexpensive as just spending the morning with a printed paper.

Author: TAM

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