Saturday, July 14, 2012

Memories of Sharing the Newspaper at the Kitchen Table

By Monica Faulkenbery, APR

I recently read an article about the Times-Picayune in New Orleans laying off one-third of its staff, reducing its print edition by five days (only printing three days a week), and focusing on its digital presence. 

The Picayune was established in 1837 with issues costing one picayune – a Spanish coin equivalent to 6 ¼ cents. Under Eliza Jane Nicholson, who inherited the struggling paper when her husband died in 1876, the Picayune introduced innovations such as society reporting, children’s pages, and the first women’s advice column, according to Wikipedia. Between the years of 1880 to 1890, the paper more than tripled its circulation. It became The Times-Picayune after merging in 1914 with its rival paper, the New Orleans Times-Democrat.

As a news junkie, I find all the reductions in newspaper staffs over the past few years very disheartening. I grew up in a household that would gather around the kitchen table every morning to read the paper. My dad read the Muskogee Phoenix in the morning and the Tulsa Tribune in the evening. It was a ritual I remember fondly and tied us together as a family.

I just don’t get the same satisfaction gathering around my iPad, scrolling through the newspapers. There’s no ink smell, no ink on my hands when I finish, no fighting with the cats who want to lie down on the paper while I’m reading it, no trading this section for that section. 

Steve Jobs once said that he loved the printed product but that our lives are not like that anymore. I know I have to embrace the new technology, and I have, but it’s okay to say that you miss the “old ways.” Just think, our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be viewing printed newspapers behind glass in museums wondering how we ever held those big pieces of paper and read them. 

What about the old political saying, “never argue (or pick a fight) with a man who buys ink by the barrel?”  There’s something else for the history books. 

Another saying also comes to mind – “can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” 

But, as Jobs said, we can’t live like we have in the past, so as I scroll through my iPad reading a San Antonio Express News article, I still worry about all my journalism friends, and the integrity of good news gathering and storytelling as newspaper staffs dwindle. And, I still remember the “good old days” as I sat with my dad sharing the newspaper at the kitchen table. 

Monica Faulkenbery, APR, is on the Board of PRSA San Antonio and the Assistant Director of Communications for the Northside Independent School District.

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