5 ways newspapers do more than deliver news

How long have you been under a stay-at-home order? Ours officially began in Tallahassee/Leon County on March 25, but Wayne and I cut our outings down before that (I lose track!).

No matter how long you’ve been out of the social circuit, I’m guessing it’s grating on you in one way or another. (Let me also take this moment to thank all of the health care professionals and essential workers who are still on that front lines every day. I admire and appreciate you so very much.)

Social distancing will save lives

For the rest of us, we still must hunker down to flatten the curve. Social distancing doesn’t just protect us; it protects other people from whatever we may be unknowingly carrying. Everyone needs to take responsibility for putting distance between themselves and others while the coronavirus is still spreading.

But I’m bored!

Wayne and I are fortunate. I’m working from home as usual (and a bit busier than ever), and Wayne is still working, albeit at home. Even so, it’s easy for the days and hours to run together without some of our usual out-of-home excursions.

Enter: THE NEWSPAPER.

I have known for a long time, as has anyone who even slightly follows the industry, that newspapers are struggling. The struggles were brought home in a deeply local way this week when staff members (and friends) at my hometown paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, were put on rolling furlough. Staff members will be on furlough for five days per month.

I love local newspapers (even though I have been disappointed to see the decline in the quality of the print versions over the past few years — along with the loss of editorial rigor in the digital versions that comes with the territory when turnaround times are so tight).

To that end, five ways your socially distanced life can be improved upon by the newspaper:

Read it by yourself

Let’s start with the most obvious. Reading the newspaper is a great way to pass the time, while also being entertained and informed.

Besides information about coronavirus, today’s Tallahassee Democrat entertained by sharing how a group of local siblings entertained their elderly neighbors with a socially distant concert. It informed by updating readers regarding the status of Killearn Country Club, a course that has been around since 1967 and has experienced significant decline over the past few years.

Read it with others

Here’s an idea. Join an online readalong. Every Sunday morning, hundreds of people “read” the New York Times together through the New York Times Readalong, which is broadcast on Facebook Live, LinkedIn, Periscope and YouTube.

This morning, for example, we had as our guest Prof. Andrew Hacker, who recently wrote “Downfall: The Demise of a President and His Party,” discussed New York Times articles and we also spoke with Dr. Lisa Ganghu, who gave her perspective of dealing with coronavirus in New York City. It’s not just reading the paper, it’s joining a community that loves print and wants it to survive.

Here’s today’s readalong:

NOTE: Although I am partial to the New York Times Readalong because I’m a producer, I’m sure there are lots of other options. For example, here’s a link to authors that are reading children’s books online.

Read a newspaper from somewhere else

I read multiple newspaper stories every week due to my work, and some of my favorites are publications from places I’m not likely to ever have an opportunity to visit. Doing so gives me perspective and helps me understand a new part of the world.

Many international newspapers have free online versions. Here are a few finds that caught my eye:

A BBC photo essay about discarded gloves.

An opinion piece in The National (United Arab Emirates) urging people to document this time in the world’s history, to aid in “future studies of our economic and social development.”

A China Daily piece about how to make Pu’er tea (a fermented tea originating from the Yunnan province).

Write for it

Have you ever read a Letter to the Editor or other opinion submission to a newspaper and thought, “I could do better than that” or “But I want my voice to be heard”? This is your chance.

Channel this extra time and those thoughts bouncing around in your head through your fingers and turn them into something that’s a candidate to be published!

My lovely friend and fellow advocate, Cynthia Changyit Levin, wrote a great primer on how to craft an effective letter to the editor.

Here’s an example of one of my letters to the editor.

You can also write about something you know. Even though our local theater scene is dark (at least for traditional in-person performances), there is likely still fertile ground for writing about theater. There’s history of local theater, thoughts about how theater will get started back up again once we can all go out, interviews with interesting actors, directors and theater fans. Check with your local newspaper to pitch them (if you can find someone who isn’t furloughed).

Origami

I can’t say I’ve tried this myself, but give me a few weeks and maybe I will!

(We still get a paper version of the Democrat, thanks to the previous owner of our home, who I suppose hasn’t canceled his subscription. I would try, but one of the things that has suffered from all the downsizings in the newspaper world is, in my opinion, customer service. I figure it’ll be harder to get a human being who understands I need to stop it than to just keep enjoying it until it goes away(?). I also kind of like the feel of the paper paper in my hands and having a reason to go outside every morning, however briefly.

Newspaper rose anyone?

5 ways newspapers do more than deliver news
Credit: Instructables Craft

Newspapers matter

There’s not going to be one strategy that can singlehandedly get us through this time of being #AloneTogether.

I hope these ideas give you some inspiration for making the time pass more quickly.

I hope you’ll consider subscribing and supporting local journalism, which is so critical.

5 ways newspapers do more than deliver news

Whatever you choose to do, please stay safe and stay a minimum of 6 feet — or two arms-length — away from others.

Once we can all meet up again, I look forward to hearing about how the newspaper played a part in keeping your mind active while we’ve been #AloneTogether.

Disclosure: I did this post in conjunction with The Ad Council. I was not compensated, and all opinions are my own.

7 thoughts on “5 ways newspapers do more than deliver news

  1. Newspapers. My working life! Great job pushing local news. It’s too bad many of the truly local hometown papers have failed because they let you know what the Kirbys up the street were up to and who was visiting Tilly Smith. Regional or multi-town papers were hit hardest by finding reliable long-term writers who understood the area. Bigger papers got lazy. It took the industry a long time to recognize the immediacy of the Internet (along with the inaccuracies). It saddens me only two of the six newspapers I’ve worked for over the years — from big papers (100,000) to community (2,000) — are still around. I do like the origami idea. Only suggestion I ever heard was lining the bird cage.

    • I, too, struggle with the lack of responsiveness on the part of bigger papers (and the other developments you cited). I hope as a society we can all find a way to support good journalism.

  2. Newspaper loving family here! Our local paper only comes out weekly but we receive two daily ones from surrounding areas. I must confess I want it in my hand not on my device tho. Also I want to add to your post that giving newspaper subscriptions as a gift is fun! We do it for our pastor, kids away at college, some that might not be able to afford it. It’s a gift that helps the paper too! Thanks for sharing! Great post!

  3. This is such a valuable post. I’ve always loved the work of ProPublica and my amazing regional publication, High Country News. The quality of the writing and the insights on where we live give me a deep sense of community as well as information.

    Thanks for this piece!

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