"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Missing newsprint

I will miss the grain feel of newsprint combined with the smell of printers’ ink.
No more ink rubbing off on my hands as I thumb through the pages of a newspaper.
I was reacting to changes at Oklahoma Press Association. For the past 12 years I’ve driven down to 36th and Lincoln and picked up a bundle of newspapers to look at for my monthly column in the Oklahoma Publisher, the publication of the OPA that goes to all the member newspapers in the state.

I’d bring it home in the gray plastic U.S. Postal Service mail tub, sit down in the floor and leisurely start going through the papers, look for stuff to comment on.
When I’d sifted through them for ideas, I’d take the skipped ones in the plastic tub and dump them in the trash. Back in the house, I’d have to go wash my hands to get the ink off, and by the time I’d returned, one of the cats had curled up in the tub.

But now with a new service, I check the papers online. Yes, it’s quicker and more recent than those from the mail, but its harder to read, and I have to squint to read some of the examples. It is a great research tool because I can scann all the paper's, and the search engine can call up specific names. But it's not the same.
National reality coincided to add to my digital depression.
The Christian Science Monitor is ceasing print publication except for once a week. US News & World Report will no longer be on newsstands. A headline in Advertising Age asks, “Will print last 5 more years?” And a story reports Macy’s cutting all print advertising.

How many more will follow? How much of the future is this?

No more throb and hum of a web press turning out thousand of newspapers per hours.
No more, “Hold and fold”? No more freedom to multi-task, thumbing through pages, seeing what’s there and then backtracking to read really interesting stuff?
In the mornings I come to work and thumb through The Oklahoman and The New York Times, turning the pages, touching the news.

I can remember the old back shop at The Waurika News Democrat, where the back issues were stored in the far back corner, yellowing away, getting more and brittle every year. We were excited when we bought a microfilm reader and could scan through Oklahoma Historical Society microfilm, but it still wasn’t reading a newspaper.

The fact is I just don’t read newspapers online. I want to hold the news, to select what I want, to wonder why such and such is on the front page, to trust the editors’ news judgment of what is important and to reading the briefs.
This is a boon for community newspapers, who will still cover the news! What a novel concept!

My friend Joyce Carney of The Eakly country connection newspaper wrote an obit for the Washita County Enterprise. She used a phrase…”the future of history.” Without newspapers covering what goes on in our communities, there is no history. So when newspapers cease covering what is happening locally, as with the metros, or go out of business…history ceases. It is said that newspapers are the first draft of history. That makes history the second draft of journalism. Who will look through the yellowed files or the microfilms, if we go away? That’s one of the hopes I have for community journalism. Many big metros are dinosaurs, scrambling for survival on the Internet…but they haven’t figured it out yet.

Surely, I pray, as I pick up a newspaper and feel the newsprint and smell the ink, history, and news, has a future, supported by an increasingly local economy, a local future of information available nowhere else.


  1. So true, so true. I don't think people even realize some of the price that is being paid for progress.

  2. I really believe that, once our newspapers disappear, and many of them already have, we will have lost something so intrinsic to American society - that things will never be quite the same again!!!

    Thought provoking essay!

  3. I wish more people understood this. My husband's grandmother and her husband would throw a party if every newspaper in the country went out of business - they openly dislike "the media." But what they don't understand is that if "the media" goes out of business, they would have nothing to talk or complain about. And what is it with cats liking to curl up in those mail tubs? I can't keep our cats out of ours! That is their favorite place to hide and nap. thanks for this blog. i don't know how you can make your readers grow, but i know many people are missing out on some great thoughts and perspectives. hope you have a great day!


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