The Times: they are a-changin’

 

Sixteen years ago (plus a few weeks), my family and I moved into the house where we live today. I arrived alone one Sunday—the others were staying with friends until the truck arrived with our stuff. I had a sleeping bag, a coffee maker, and a few other things I would need. I ran out to the store and bought I few things I had forgotten I would need—including a coffee mug—and made myself at home in the nearly empty house.

Early in the morning, when I was half-asleep and half-awake—for who can sleep soundly in new surroundings?—I heard a car stop outside the house. Somebody threw something at the house and then drove away. I wondered about that event as I drowsed, but when I was awake and dressed, I found a copy of the local newspaper lying on the front steps.

That morning, I phoned the circulation number of that newspaper, told them that the previous owners had moved, but I wanted to receive the daily newspaper. I gave them a credit card number, and for the past sixteen years I have had a newspaper to read each morning. There were a few days when delivery failed to happen because of ice and snow, but otherwise I’ve been able to eat breakfast and sip my coffee and read the world news, national news, local news, sports items, human interest items, comics, and opinion pieces at my leisure.

The newspaper is a mild luxury—rates rose to the point that I’ve been paying roughly a dollar a day to receive the news printed on paper. But I’ve read newspapers ever since I was a little boy and my father brought the afternoon paper home each day and picked up two different Sunday papers each week. When I was in college, my friends and I split the cost of a subscription and shared the daily paper. Rarely have I been without a newspaper to read each morning—generally only on vacations, and even then I sometimes was able to get access to a newspaper.

This morning, a note was included with my morning paper. The carrier is no longer going to deliver to some subscribers on her route. I assume that, since I received the note, I am one of the subscribers who will be dropped.

The newspaper is making a transition to becoming purely electronic and digital. The editors expect to keep charging a dollar a day for people to read the daily news on their phones and other devices. I am not going to be one of those digital readers. I already pay for an internet connection, and I can get news and sports information and even comics for no additional charge online. The newspaper office is closed today, but tomorrow I am phoning circulation, canceling my subscription, and asking for a refund of any outstanding balance.

For years the decline of the newspaper has been predicted, announced, and considered. The newspaper I’ve received for the last sixteen years is imitating many more famous newspapers in making this transition to a digital format. Many other newspapers have gone out of business. I suspect this newspaper will go out of business soon; I don’t think many of their loyal readers are going to pay a dollar a day for information already available online.

Change happens, whether we like it or not. I’m not really complaining—after all, I am sharing this news in a digital format. But I will miss that morning read, and getting the news off a computer screen will not be the same. It may take a while for me to adjust to this new way of life. J.

19 thoughts on “The Times: they are a-changin’

  1. I am thankful for online books because they offer me a way to make font bit enough to read, but I have the same melancholy regarding the surmise of books in my hand. I like the books in hand. Same sorrow regarding the removal of hymn books as exchange for the words on the screen. As you say, The times they are a’changing.

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  2. Both my parents were avid newspaper readers which I inherited along with a coffee addiction (newspapers and coffee just go together so well!.). I dropped the San Diego UnionTribune subscription awhile ago after their hard copy rates exploded. My mom and I split a Wall Street Journal Subscription, she gets the actual newspaper while I have access on line. I do miss the daily ritual of spreading the paper out before me and perusing it while eating breakfast.

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  3. These tales make me sad.
    My dad always got the paper— Atlanta, at one point, had two different papers— the Atlanta Constitution and The Atlanta Joural— one morning, one evening— then at some point in my life, they merged.
    By the time dad passed away nearly three years ago, I canceled his subscription — a subscription that had skyrocketed to nearly 300 bucks for 7 days a week service— our own local paper in Carrollton charges for an online subscription—like you, I’ll just find what I need online— but I do miss those leisure mornings pouring over the comics, Dear Abby or Ann as well as clipping out recipes

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    • Kinda those reflections we make where we associate with “much simpler times” when in fact we were a lot younger with relatively few of life’s responsibilities. A bygone era. What concerns me more than anything is the increasing technological tether we have with each passing day to electricity and the internet. Traditional social infrastructures we relied on, as “manual” as they were at the time, had a certain reliability to them as it required greater human interaction for it to work. Nowadays a freakish Cat 5 hurricane, earthquakes, foreign hackers, terrorist attack, domestic nutjob,… knocking out the electric grid and/or the internet and we can’t even pick up the pieces and go back to the 1970’s anymore.
      Sorry.. it’s supposed to be the last holiday of the season to share with friends and family… but it’s exactly them I am thinking about as I post this. We are all truly vulnerable and that part is getting worse each day.

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    • As I just explained in a reply to Doug, Chicago had three newspapers when I was a boy, including the Daily News which came out late in the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning. Alas, the Daily News perished while I was still young.
      Funny how my children and I hunt down recipes from the internet instead of clipping them from the paper. J.

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      • Hey.. I got old newspapers and magazines saved… collector stuff (or so we thought) from the big events from WW2 to the early 80’s. Moon landing, John Wayne’s death.. bunch of stuff. You know any market for this and where?

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      • Doug, I can offer a professional opinion on historic newspapers, as I am a Certified Archivist. They have no value, I’m sorry to tell you. When I am processing a collection and come across a newspaper saved for historic value, I drop it straight into the trash. Newspaper clippings have a small value, since they show what interested the person who took the trouble to save them. But unless they have handwritten notes or key sentences underlined, they don’t matter all that much. J.

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  4. Back in the early to mid 1960’s I used to be a paperboy delivering those newspapers your father’s generation, and mine, read each morning.. the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Getting up at 6am each day, 5am on Sundays, filling the ultra-large front basket with the Trib and the two saddle baskets in back with the Sun-Times. Doing that regardless of the Chicago climate, in all kinds of weather… for a whopping $30 a month. Mom & dad got me the larger bike for a Christmas gift.. and it was quite impressive all decked out for paper delivery.. but totally un-cool for general neighborhood cruising. For that I garbage-picked an old bike frame.. fixed it up with new tires and a banana seat.. lubed up the bearings and the chain.. bingo.. my after-school pleasure transportation. Finally I came of age to get a stockroom job at a tool manufacturing company… then a stint at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken (before the KFC days). Somewhere in those years paperboys vanished, likely due to new workplace laws, legal litigation in trying to keep paperboys from being the victims of the “sudden” surge of pedophiles who preferred young boys… and replaced with adult “newspaper carriers” using their cars.
    Yep.. times are always a-changin’.

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    • The newspaper my dad bought after work, read on the train coming home, and then let me read was the Chicago Daily News. Sundays he bought that and the Chicago Tribune. When the Daily News went out of business we tried the Chicago Sun Times for a while, but eventually we got the Tribune. J.

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    • There’s a lot of history involving both those papers, Wally…including editors dueling and brawling on the streets of Little Rock. I wasn’t around yet when they merged, but I’ve consulted both on microfilm for historical research. J.

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