Happiness is a printed newspaper

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When I walked into the pressroom of a newspaper for the first time, I fell instantly in love with the atmosphere. The smell of ink was heady; the loud click-click beat of a running press sounded like music.

I was in my early 20s and hooked immediately on the whole putting out a newspaper experience. The rush of meeting deadlines and the sense of accomplishment when you hold the finished paper in your hands is addicting. At a newspaper is where I found my voice; the place that nurtured my growth as a writer.

Over the years, constantly living with deadlines became challenging as other areas of my life needed more attention. Still, the love affair that started all those years ago didn’t end and sight of a newspaper hot off the press still sets my head spinning.

Now I’m out of the day-to-day ordered-chaos of a working newsroom, but I appreciate that these places exist and that people show up every day to write stories that make it into print and into readers’ hands. An appreciation for what newspapers mean to me and their place in our lives is what caused the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I read an opinion piece in the New York Times.

The writer, who founded the Microsoft online magazine, Slate, talked about the changing world of publishing and pretty much predicted the demise of most papers. He said newspapers are “hemorrhaging subscribers and advertisers for their paper editions, even as they give away their contents online.”

He called the American newspaper an anachronism, described it is “an artifact from a time when chopping down trees was essential to telling the news.” On and on he went about how folks get their news from the Internet these days, how the convenience of online news is killing papers at a rapid pace.

Competition is driving papers to produce Web sites, he said, and there will be some who make a successful transition from print to electronically providing news, but only a handful.

Then he ended the piece with a question, “Competition is growing as well among Web sites that think there is money to be made performing the local paper’s local functions. One or two of these will turn out to be right. And then, who will pay even a nickel for the hometown rag?”

“Hometown rag,” the words made me cringe. I know the landscape is changing and the way we get our news is moving into cyberspace. But are we really ready to give up turning the page and seeing a grandchild’s picture ready for us to cut out and proudly place on the refrigerator? Having it pop up on a computer screen is just not the same experience.

I know a new generation looks to the Internet for information and I do too, to some extent, but I can’t imagine a world without a hometown newspaper. For those like me who have a love affair with the printed word, the click of a mouse is no substitute for the sweet sound of a press rolling and a world without that heady fragrance of ink — well that is just plain sad.