I grew up around newspapers. We always got a paper at home, and I always read it.
What’s more, my grandparents ran a small town newspaper throughout my childhood. Lacy was editor, photographer, writer while Mimi did the ads and layout. (I’m sure there was more to it than that, which my mom will fill us in on when she reads this.) Lacy was never without his camera and a reporter’s notebook in his pocket, and when we arrived for our annual visit, we always stopped at the paper first to let Lacy know we were there. There was a print shop in the back of the building, and I’m still taken back to those days whenever I catch a whiff of printer’s ink.
My aunt was also a newspaper woman, first (?) for a weekly paper outside Chicago, then for many years at the Cedar Rapids Gazette, where I also spent a summer working. I majored in jouralism in college, and worked on the award-winning university newspaper.
So you might not be surprised to learn how much it pains me to read about all the long-time newspapers that are folding.
The Rocky Mountain News
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Cincinnati Post
Locally, the Ann Arbor News has just announced that it’s closing in July, after 174 years of publication. There goes my back-up plan for when the Detroit Free Press switches to three-day-a-week home delivery. An abbreviated version will be available at newsstands every day, and an electronic version of the paper will be published daily, but it won’t be the same. We can’t sit at the table and read the paper on the laptop while we’re eating (not enough laptops to go around, whereas we can always trade sections). How am I going to get Book Boy in the habit of reading the news if he can’t plop on the couch and read the comics every day?
(On the other hand, I applaud the Free Press for finding a creative alternative to closing … and I’m sure we’ll all get used to it.)
Perhaps more importantly, who will do the in-depth local reporting that newspapers do? The TV stations don’t do it, national papers/TV channels don’t do it. (As an example, the scandal involving former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick – who cost the city a NINE MILLION DOLLAR settlement because of his perjury – would never have been uncovered if it weren’t for the investigative reporting of the Detroit Free Press.)