7:00 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 21 2020 daily proof of life post. Today I want to talk about how I miss reading the Sunday newspaper. In particular, I miss the ritual of it.
On Sunday mornings we’d head to church. Usually the paper was waiting on the stoop, and we’d bring it inside on our way out. If we were coming straight home after church, we’d dive into the paper after lunch. On days where we went out for lunch, or so some event like a summertime concert at the band shell in the park, the paper was reserved for after dinner. Reading the paper was something the required one’s full attention.
Our Sunday paper was huge. It was at least 10 to 12 centimeters (4 to 5 inches) thick when fulled folded and assembled. There were at least 5 or 6 main sections, plus the comics, the magazine, and all of the various advertisements. Obvious there were sections that I didn’t care about as a kid, but I’d flip through them anyway. I liked looking at the photos and seeing the ads. Rather than going straight for the comics, I save that for last. It was like the dessert of the newspaper.
When you came across an article that you thought someone else would like, you’d ask them if they’d read it yet. If they had, you’d talk about it and if not, you’d talk about when they’d finished. When you finished a section you traded, or put it into the communal pile and fished out a section that you hadn’t read yet.
All of this was done in relative silence. The TV might be on, but no one was paying attention. There were smatterings of conversation between the adults. Kids would ask questions, and the more patient of the grown-ups would try to answer them. Occasionally an adult would cuss about politics, but that was usually muttered under their breath.
My clip articles when everyone was done, and send them along with letters to faraway relatives. Most of my Christmas and birthday cards from aunts, uncles, and cousins would have an article, or maybe a comic strip, included. Something they thought I’d enjoy, so they cut them out and shared them. When we were out and about, adults would ask each other if they’d seen this-or-that in the paper.
You can’t get that experience from the internet. We have on-demand streaming services and 24-hour news networks, so there’s no special time carved out to learn what’s going on in the world. Everyone might be in the same room, looking at different devices, but they’re not reading the same stories, or even visiting the same sites. It’s not the communal ritual of the family coming together to share a resource like the Sunday newspaper.
There’s a lot of talk about how we’re losing the concept of journalism. That the failure of newspapers has been a harbinger of the failure of news reporting itself. Long-form articles with depth, rather than pull quotes, sound bites, and memes. I think we’ve lost more than that. It feels more like we’ve lost the concept of genuine connection.