When I flew from Boston to San Francisco I was the only one reading a newspaper in my row. At least I could wrestle it into fold-able parts without competing for elbow room, but I was disappointed because I had seen many people buying papers in the terminal. And it was an early morning flight, the traditional newspaper reading and coffee drinking hour.
I’m always on the look-out for other newspaper readers. Those who still get their news from print. Hard core types. Purists, we might call ourselves, those who consume news the way God and Gutenberg intended.
A lot of people are prematurely nostalgic for newspapers. “I used to read newspapers all the time,” people of my generation will say, with the sentimental reverence you might attach to an old Chevy or a Mounds bar.
But then I’ll run into someone much younger who is, as we say, on the same page. Writer Anne Zimmerman, in her 30s and of that generation that generally leans online, said she actually prefers print. Zimmerman, author of a delicious new biography of M.F.K. Fisher’s early years, An Extravagant Hunger, compared reading on the web to reading a newspaper in print.
“When I’m reading on the web I skim. My attention jumps around and it’s more of a fact-finding mission than a real enjoyable learning experience.”
Actually, it turns out that print people may have an advantage. New research by the University of Oregon concluded that people who read in print remember news stories better and in greater detail than those who gulp their news online.
My whole writing career has been in print so I have a personal and professional loyalty to words in black and white that you can hold in your hands. My best argument for reading an actual newspaper is the unintended information you get from a random sighting. You’re reading about the latest political bloodbath or checking to see if the Giants are out of their slump and your eyes slide over to a story you never knew you needed or wanted to know about. And there it is – a little gift.
I had a pile of papers waiting for me after vacation, including two dailies, the Sunday edition of a third paper and two weeklies which could not go into the recycle bin until I went through them. Otherwise I would have missed a new report on migraines, a review of a new BBC series and a story quoting poet Mary Oliver on the need for solitude. I surely would have missed the story about my local librarian opening a Brazilian wax business.