A Paean to Paper

Any kind of a life crisis – medical, emotional, financial
or existential – imbues one with a renewed appreciation of life’s
simple pleasures.  Like the morning newspaper. It may be sacrilegious
for a "new media" guy to say, but there is no electronic pleasure comparable
to crawling out of bed in a dim dewy dawn light, stumbling bleary-eyed
to the front door, and finding there, waiting every single morning, the
feast for the senses that is the Our Daily Paper. Not our ONLY daily
paper, of course, but our first-borne.

A feast for all the senses, in a sense electronic media
will never be. The sight of the rolled up compilation of the newsworthy
essence of the day, wrapped in one or more layers of translucent blue
protective plastic (depending on the weather), festooned with fonts,
figures, line drawings and full-color photos from front to back, oozing
with information, advertising, and multiple nuggets of knowledge, humor
and occasional wisdom is what convinces us we’ve survived to see another
day..  We drink in the
smell of fresh newsprint, mere hours from the house-sized
monster presses, and the biodegradable vegetable dye ink. We luxurate
in the tactile feel of those 80 or 100 pages, foldable, clipable, wrapable,
which in addition to being readable can be wrapped around boxes, fish
or kitty boxes, used to cushion china, clean glass, house train pets,
protect things from paint, construct poppers and airplanes and paper
trees and paper mache, create confetti, and start a fire. Try doing
any of those things with your flat-screen monitor.

Sometimes we shiver as we hold closed our bathroom and
glance immediately at the mini-weather report at the top of page one
to figure out what we should wear.

Then we settle back into bed with our super-sized mug
of "Flor de Manabi" Ecuadorian coffee (with chemicals) and
the magic hour before we go to work, when we can muse and ruminate, laugh
and cry, be amused and amazed and indignant, make connections, jot down
ideas, mentally compose blog postings, root for and rue our sports surrogates,
and note which stories to keep an eye on as the day develops.

We usually start with the front page, just to make sure
the world hasn’t ended, or radically changed, since we went to bed.
We know this is ridiculous, because the paper in our hands came off
the presses at about the same time we were watching the 11:00 news before
falling asleep, but it is reassuring somehow, anyway. Then Sports,
Local, Business and Arts. We finish with the crossword puzzle, often
over lunch.

Perhaps we are representative of the last generation
of news addicts with this ingrained predilection for a paper paper, and
by the time our grandkids are serious readers paper newspapers will take
their place alongside telegrams and afternoon editions in the museum
of antiquated media.

In the interest of full disclosure, we once
worked for a paper paper. The 17-year-old Dowbrigade was a copy boy on
the Democrat
and Chronicle
, flagship rag of the Gannett empire long before
USA Today sullied Newspaper Row from coast to coast.

One of our jobs, along with fetching, retrieving, delivering
and writing the pity six-word-maximum description of the weather that
appears with the temp and precip forecasts at the top of page one, was
to drive a couple of the first papers off of the presses (at around 6:30
pm) out to Paul Miller and. Al Neuharth, the head honchos of the organization,
who lived in ritizy suburbs about 37 and-a-half miles due south on a
series of connected interstates and local roads.

We were told speed was of the essence, supposedly so
the top dogs could do a final, personal edit and deliver the classics
"Stop the presses!" and "Replate!" telephonically. We don’t know if that
ever happened, but we do know that if we kept the petal to the metal
in the police stock Olds 88 that they assigned us for the drive we could
make it, downtown parking lot to suburban driveway, in 30 minutes.

Inevitably, we got clocked by the cops. The Dowbrigade
had long hair and an attitude in those days (imagine that!); it was a
miracle we didn’t get stopped more often. We were going 22 miles over
the speed limit, which was 65 in those days. In an important lesson in
civics and government’s relations with the press, the paper had the ticket

What can we say? The smell of fresh newsprint still
gets us high.

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