Saturday, April 3, 2010

Newspapers: A different flavor of lament

If you knew me in real life, you'd know I love to read newspapers.  A habit I am being forced to give up, step by tortuous step, as newspapers disappear, morph into electronic form, excise and butcher content, blah blah blah.

But my lament today isn't about the death of newspapers in terms of Woe, Wither Goest the Fifth Estate?  Nope.  It's more along the lines of postage stamps.

Let me start again.

I get treasures in the mail.  The mail, UPS, what have you.  I tell you about some of these treasures, such as in my post about a fleabay score on a group of miniature perfumes.  Today, it was a mini of Teatro alla Scala (Krizia).  I savor this kind of search and procure activity.  Something in my wiring, I guess.

Also in my wiring is paying attention to the packaging.  Not just of the item itself, as in visual presentation of a product.  As in, what it the thing packed in.  Styrofoam peanuts that might outlast roaches as entities on this planet?  Bubble wrap that can be used as a tension reliever, but is a petroleum based product and also has landfill issues?  Or...rarely, but on occasion...newspaper.  Recyclable newspaper.

But hang on.  That's the eco-guilt angle.  What is the angle of my lament?  Local flavor, my friend.  Snapshots of life from other hamlets.  Whether advertising or editorial, words or pictures, you can still get a sense of the remnants of local culture from a local newspaper.

From Bakersfield, CA, I see why a local sheriff might lose their job.  Or how the schoolkids paid attention to Theodore Geisel's birthday.  (That would be Dr. Seuss.  And a teacher dressed up as The Cat in the Hat.  Just so you know.)  Classifieds tell me how much it would cost me to rent a 1BR apartment.  And I can see the brand of milk available at the local grocery store.  Somehow, in a world where the options for a cup of coffee at Panera are the same from Barstow to Bangor, this strikes me as cool.  Always has.  Because even as homogenization becomes more and more prevalent across regions of our country, unique elements remain.

Because I open a newspaper from somewhere, and it has a tangible sense of location, of "other," that their webpage will never give me.

Because I still get a thrill from getting a piece of mail with a postage stamp and return address from another country.

Because, I suppose, there is a romance to knowing there is something else out there.

I have a bit of an allergy to newsprint & ink.  But I never, ever wished for them to be out of my life.  Whether as a method to gather news...or get a view.


BitterGrace said...

Yes! I love this, too. For years I subscribed to a paper from a little town in Northern CA. The paper is known for its radical politics, which was my nominal reason for getting it--but it was also full of silly small town news, which I always read with pleasure.

The Left Coast Nose said...

Does reading the NYT count, even though I live in California? And by that I mean, I had the wonderful opportunity to live in NYC for about 22 months. Now I read about some groovy new Laotian dumpling place all the rage in Queens or the new esplanade going in along Brooklyn Heights, and I think, "Yeah. That's happening in my old neighborhood."

Anonymous said...

We keep reconsidering our daily newspaper subscription: it's fairly expensive, it's less and less necessary for finding out what you want to know, the editorials uniformly lean liberal (is that balanced? I don't think so). But the newspaper entices my kids to read things they wouldn't bother to go look up on the internet, and I'm all for encouraging them to investigate their world.

I always get a little thrill out of hauling some box or other out of the attic and finding a piece of newspaper from some time in the past. The price of hamburger in 1997, the report of the Blizzard of 1993, the concerns over the new parking lot of the civic center in 1986... fascinating.

ScentScelf said...

There is a paper from the north woods that brings me my small-town dose when I need it. Also helps me feel connected to a landscape that is special to me.

ScentScelf said...

Isn't that a cool thing about the NYTimes for those who actually have lived there? It is nostalgia and a "paper of record." I think given your situation, it definitely counts.

I've only visited, so my daily subscription doesn't count for these purposes. :)

ScentScelf said...

Of course once upon a time, bigger towns offered more than one paper...that was one way to get "fair and balanced." Interesting comment about your kids and paper v internet; I find that myself sometimes. Which is why I'm not just being cranky when I wonder what is being lost; there's a "how your brain works" element to it, too.

Papers in attics. In my old house, there was paper IN THE WALL. Pull down the lath, find stuffing. The horsehair was interesting for a while, but the newspapers--when they didn't crumble to pieces--offered a slice. So cool.