Sunday, 18 November 2012

Enjoy a newspaper while you still can

For as long as I can remember, I spent Sunday mornings drinking coffee surrounded by newspapers. When I couldn't afford the Sunday New York Times, I would save the Globe and Mail, and savor it. And there was always the Sunday Citizen or the Sunday Sun as a back-up plan.

Ever since I was a wee girl learning to read by devouring the St. Catharines Standard, I loved the smell of newsprint, the way you had to clean yourself up after reading it. And I adored The Star Weekly with its long articles written by real Canadian writers with odd names like Silver Don Cameron.

These are bleak days for people like me. The Sunday Citizen is gone and the cost of the Sunday New York Times is prohibitive.

I gave up my Citizen subscription when I got a Kindle for Christmas. Kindling was cheaper but it was never the same. You couldn't save the crossword because there was no crossword. You couldn't even pour over the obits to see if you were still alive. The Kindle edition was always full of mistakes as if it were put together as an after-thought, with question marks where the bullets should be, and the same stories often included twice or three times.

Get what you pay for, I guess.

I even missed the black box, once burgeoning with flyers and newspaper sections which I was now using to store Christmas decorations. There was nothing to wrap fish in anymore.

When I lost my Kindle, I was like a person set adrift at sea. I tried reading the newspapers online but they were awful. The news sites were full of videos and cheap come-ons instead of real advertisements for real local businesses. I couldn't find anything. My neck hurt from craning over my laptop trying to sort out where the little stories were, the quirky little man bites dog stories, and accounts of hapless individuals whose exploits either landed them in jail or on Darwin's list.

I wanted to cancel my digital subscription. Should I completely give up on newspapers?

I couldn't decide.

I've always believed that dilemmas have their own way of sorting themselves out. As the mental health professionals say: "Don't kill yourself. It gets better."

And so it was that I answered the door yesterday and there was a middle aged man with a photo I.D. who had come around to flog an Ottawa Citizen newspaper subscription. I rarely answer the door and often shut the door on pitchmen or threaten to sic the dog on them but every since Scott did this job, I thought better of it. Why not give the man a bit of my time?

He looked exhausted and downtrodden and I felt sorry for him. We talked for a few minutes about his offer -- the Ottawa Citizen for four months for just enough money to pay the delivery guy. Seventeen bucks a month. Not a bad deal, I thought. We got talking and I discovered the pitchman had worked for a couple of decades as a reporter for the Hamilton Spectator. He even proudly showed me one of his clippings that he had tucked into his clipboard. He smiled proudly as he showed it to me.

We swapped a couple of stories and talked about people we both knew and I thought: how can I not buy the paper from this guy? He was like me and Scott -- a veteran of the journalism wars fought so long ago.

And so tomorrow I will wake up to my morning paper and I know I will delight in it. The smell of newsprint. The colorful Christmas ads. The best buys at the grocery store.

Call me old fashioned but I like getting the paper. I like seeing the photographs taken with care by staff photographers and displayed proudly in living color and not as a smudge on my Kindle. I like to see the clear faces of the people who still have jobs. And I like a paper with my morning coffee.

Today will be my last day on the digital highway. The way I figure, we have to enjoy newspapers while we still can.


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