Like many folks in my generation, a morning paper in the driveway was part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents subscribed for all the time they lived independently and I developed the same habit. Except while away at college, I started my mornings with a paper and a cup of coffee. At one point I actually subscribed to two daily papers: the local one and the New York Times.
I grew up reading the Boston Globe, considered one of the best papers in the country for decades. Later, daily papers in Cedar Rapids, Salt Lake City, Tucson, and Phoenix started my days. I never gave it much thought: papers were just part of the fabric of life.
Obviously, that is no longer the case. Print newspapers are an endangered species. Each year produces a growing list of cities and towns without a printed paper. For many cities that still have a physical paper, it may be delivered only a few days a week. The paper has gotten thinner, the ink smudges more easily, and the desperation of subscription telemarketers increases with each call.
Aware that many people get their news and information from the Internet, most newspapers have made a valiant effort to develop and promote a digital version of the paper. Some, like the New York Times, have seen strong growth in this area. In fact, one report I saw noted the Times added over 600,000 digital subscribers last year alone.
As anyone who has tried to access the digital version of their local or national newspaper knows, there are problems. Reading a story on a tablet or even a laptop isn’t the same as turning pages. It just isn’t. Ads in the print version are more easily avoidable than videos that suddenly start up on line, or ads that crawl across the screen and pop up in the middle of a story.
Most sites now have pay walls, so you can get a little of the paper’s content but after a point you must subscribe to be able to read the rest. If you subscribe to the print version the digital version is either added in or comes for a small premium, but a digital subscription alone costs about as much as having the paper end up in your driveway.
Besides the physical decline in virtually all newspapers is the serious drop in quality. In Phoenix, the 6th largest city in the country, our only major newspaper has local news restricted to two or three pages. Business news? Two pages. The arts? Today that means movies and pop music. Interested in books, paintings and dance, or other forms of artistic expression? Don’t look for much in the newspaper.
I am quite aware that the Internet and all the forms of social connection and information exchange makes the traditional form of newspaper news delivery obsolete and much too expensive to produce.
That doesn’t mean I can’t be sad I don’t have a high quality, entertaining, and informative alternative waiting for me each morning. Reading a good morning newspaper allowed me to start the day slowly and at my own pace.
I miss it.