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I’m one of those people who must have a morning newspaper every day at breakfast. I guess it’s almost a genetic thing. All my life the daily paper has been a breakfast bible. There was always an early morning paper delivery to the front door. For many years in several places there was also an evening paper delivered about 5 PM. This, I recall, was reserved for after dinner reading.
As soon as my brother and I were able to read newsprint we were expected to. Up to that point, the “funnies”, as the comic strips were called, were always read to us by some member of the family. This was a treat, especially on Sundays when the usual one or two pages were increased to six.
The public schools I attended had the New York Times delivered to every classroom in the junior and senior highs. Again, reading the paper was encouraged, and in some cases, demanded. Current events were part of daily curriculums and participation, and a good grade was incumbent upon reading, at least the obviously important news stories. All these ingrained habits stay with one.
The availability of high quality newspapers varied from place to place. San Francisco had two papers – one a morning, the other an evening. The quality was not consistent, however with the morning paper being far superior, but at least there were two.
A one-newspaper town is not the best situation, since the reader is not given the opportunity of reading two points of view. Also, there isn’t the chance to read multiple columnists.
I never lived where there were weekly papers until I started working for them, thereby missing one of the best forms of local journalism. An important service is provided by the weeklies. One is able to be informed of everything of importance happening in hometowns and immediate environs.
There’s the obvious boons to local businesses who can enjoy the opportunity to market their wares and services to community consumers, and to those same consumers who need to know what’s available at hand.
Year’s ago, local news was usually restricted to social notes from all over. You know, the “Sara Jones’s Great Aunt Sally is visiting this week from her home in Wichita,” or printable items picked up by listening on telephone party lines.
When I first moved to Maine, I was shocked to discover my phone was on a four party line. I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but I had a private line the next day. Within two years, all the lines in the town were placed underground and were all private. It was the fastest leap forward in technology I’ve ever witnessed.
Putting out a good weekly paper requires a lot of work. Naturally, I think my paper is the best of the lot, thanks to the foresight and imagination of its founders. There’s no excuse for its readers not knowing what’s happening in the entire area it covers. Combines with the area daily paper and local TV news coverage, we should all be terribly well informed.
Some of Mark Twain’s funniest writing has to do with the time he spent as a reporter for a small town paper in California. He was always longing for something to happen that would give him the opportunity to do some big time reporting. Unfortunately, the only excitement was the drunken brawls on Saturday night in the local saloon.
Having more free time than is good for someone of Twain’s lively imagination he decided to write a gossip column, which he enlivened by creating gossip of his own. When he printed a made-up item about the town’s doctor and a local lady he went too far. He had to leave town two steps ahead of the tar and feathered rail. He maintained that after he left, taking his column with him, readership dropped and the paper failed.
One of the most important people in my life is the schoolboy who leaves my morning paper at my door – always by 6 AM, no matter what the weather. I love the kid.
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