The Newspaper

I saw this prompt last month (from SITS) and decided I needed to respond to it. The newspaper has been such a big part of my life, from childhood to now.

Do you still get a newspaper delivered to your house? What role do you think daily newspapers play in today’s society where we have access to so many other forms of news 24 hours a day?

The answer to the first question, “Do you still get a newspaper delivered to your house?” is “yes, currently.” However, for quite a few years (the past five, perhaps?), we only got the “paper” paper on Sundays and got the digital version the other days. I think we did this is a cost-cutting measure, despite my years of saying, “I’ll never move from the ‘paper paper’ to digital … it just wouldn’t be the same.” When my father-in-law moved in with us in June, however, we discontinued his “paper daily” subscription at his home and moved it to our house, so we now get the “paper paper” every day as well as the digital version. He really enjoys getting a “real” paper daily, and he is one of those readers who would not be getting any access if he had to rely on digital.

The first question is easy; the second one is more complex.  In all honesty, I believe the newspaper as the institution I grew up with is in its death throes. Much of the collapse of the “newspaper as institution” is a function of our ability to get real-time news (and opinion) via so many other avenues. For example, why wait to get a report of what happened at a City Commission meeting if I am immediately able to view the livestream, if attendees are live tweeting, and if I can follow the meeting’s progress via my various social media connections? (Granted, I am getting their portrayal, which is different than a professional journalistic opinion, but perhaps I am more capable of forming an analytical opinion than I previously thought possible.)

I do have an observation about the difference between “paper papers” and digital. I miss the “random news and tidbits” that a reader runs across when browsing a “real paper.” (And yes I know that is possible in to view a literal pdf of the newspaper (as opposed to the digital/web version), since that was just recently pointed out to me (hooray)). But if I don’t have paper to flip through, I’m not going to flip through the e-newspaper like I would the real thing. I think it is a true loss to read only the content we intended to read, in the same way that I think it is a true loss that we can now create our own playlists on Pandora and other providers, meaning we don’t ever have to hear a song we don’t prefer … I think back on music I discovered only because I was forced to sit through it as a part of a radio station program … sometimes is is fortuitous to be exposed to something you didn’t think you wanted in the first place.

We will keep getting the Tallahassee Democrat daily as long as my father-in-law is living with us, but I seriously doubt we will continue getting a daily paper version after he leaves our home someday. Here are a few reasons why:

Dilution This newspaper is not what it used to be. The addition of the USA Today material, and the general attrition of in-depth journalism is leaving me underwhelmed.

Quality The quality of the newspaper is declining. I realize the pressures they are under but when you stop attending to the quality of your product, you start losing me. I dislike typos, of course, but I especially dislike typos in obituaries. In a recent obituary, the gentleman must have been a “site manager” of his business. The obituary described him as a “sire manager.” On the day the Democrat announced its upcoming reorganization, the front page included this typo (“infront”):


Access This seems to have gotten better lately, but for years, every time I wanted to read something on the Democrat’s website, I had to go through so many contortions to prove I was a subscriber that I often gave up. If the product has become diluted and the quality has deteriorated, I won’t be struggling to read it.

This question elicited quite a few responses when I posted it on Facebook. Check out the opinions here.

Today's News is Tomorrows History

Perhaps the reason I waited so long to write this post after seeing the prompt several weeks ago is the fact that although I feel confident in my opinion, I have connections to the people and the processes behind the “paper paper.” I have been a staunch advocate. I have been grateful when the Democrat published my Letter to the Editor and my Chronicle pieces. I think Bob Gabordi’s MOVE Tallahassee initiative is fabulous. I think Bob Gabordi was fabulous the day I called him on a Sunday afternoon in a panic because my mother-in-law’s obituary was not going to run the following Monday (due to series of communication errors between the funeral home and me about the deadline). I have been here since 1982 (except for the three glorious New York City years) and this seems like one of the most difficult changes to absorb in the life of our community. The Democrat has announced my children’s births (they don’t do that anymore),my engagement, my wedding, my children’s first birthdays. They have been as much a part of Tallahassee to me as live oaks and Downtown Getdowns.

I simply have my doubts.

crumpled newspaper

Buddha, Baby

I have decided, when given the five weekly Mama Kat writing prompts, to use a Random Number Generator to determine which prompt I am going to write to (unless one is so compelling that I just have to write to that one). This week led to Number Two: Describe a woman who inspired you. The background of that request is that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  SITS and Electrolux are promoting awareness and early detection. That’s why Mama Kat (and I, now) are writing about women who have inspired us.

I recently read a passage by Ram Dass that discussed peacefulness:

What does Buddha have to do with the women who inspired me? Read on…

Occasionally people show me their new babies and ask me if that peaceful innocence is not just like that of the Buddha. Probably not, I tell them, for within that baby reside all the latent seeds of worldly desire, just waiting to sprout as the opportunity arises. On the other hand, the expression on the face of the Buddha, who had seen through the impermanence and suffering associated with such desires, reflects the invulnerability of true freedom.

Since the topic of this prompt links back to cancer, the women I know and have known who had cancer came to mind immediately. Some were very public about their experiences; others literally did not convey the message to their most loved ones until after death. All of them inspired in one way or another. It is the ones who somehow embody peacefulness (a la Buddha) despite the impermanence of their health statuses and their tangible suffering who get top billing in this post.

When I was in grad school, I had to interview someone with a disability. That led me to Judy, who had had various battles with cancer over her lifetime, eventually leading to the removal of her leg. Did that stop the light that almost literally emanates from her? NO. I owe it completely to her (and divine intervention) that I ended up at her church, St. Francis, for most of the next decade, with the exception of the three years I was in New York.

Speaking of New York, back in 1991, I was seeking a replacement for my “coffee hour duty” at my church. I was calling through the list of potential substitutes and came upon Lucy, who replied, “You must not know – I am on the prayer list.” In reality, “on the prayer list” meant desperately ill with terminal cancer. She could have said, “I am fighting for my life and can’t believe you care about me shoveling cookies down the Methodists’ throats” but she said, so kindly, “I am on the prayer list.” She made it easy for me.

When my children were in daycare, I kept noticing a pregnant mom with no hair picking up her child who was my son’s age. It did not compute. Turns out, Jennifer was battling breast cancer, while pregnant, while raising a 2 year old, with a smile on her face every time I saw her!

Lastly, the final honoree will not be identified. It is too early. She is someone I talk with frequently in the course of doing business. When I called her today to discuss what I thought was my thorny business-related problem, she said she needed to tell me something after that. She sat through my explanation of my “complex” issue, then told me that, after beating bladder cancer, she has been diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and will be out for a few weeks. No weeping, no gnashing of teeth, no “poor me’s”. Classy, calm, almost peaceful.

When I am on edge due to stressors much less serious than a cancer diagnosis, everyone in my orbit knows it. Not because I say, “it is bothering me that I am in debt a lot more than I want to be (or whatever the problem du jour is),” but because I allow the stress to snuff out my inner light and put a damper on the way I relate. I am so not in the “invulnerability of true freedom” stage yet.

Thanks to these women, though, I am inspired to open myself up to that invulnerability. They help me believe I can be truly free.