Technological wonders surround us all. From weather satellites to eBooks to social media to robotic Mars rovers to instant breaking global news received via text message on a cell phone.
Newspapers, however, have remained a constant in America for 310 years. There is nothing fancy about newspapers. It’s newsprint; a low-cost, non-archival wood pulp paper usually with an off-white hue, printed with words, clipart and photographs.
Newsprint has a distinctive feel. The ritualistic, tactile sensation one receives whilst reading the paper is a tangible, visceral experience. Ink on the fingers adds to the newspaper reading joy.
In journalism school I was taught to read the newspaper every day. Many younger people turn to alternative sources when seeking local, national or international news. I prefer real books, magazines and newspapers as opposed to digital versions. I do have a digital subscription to Scientific American.
Small-town newspapers were similar to Twitter in the early 1900's, often reporting the mundane aspects of day-to-day life; sometimes to the nosy extreme.
My great aunt, Mary Dale, known as “Aunt Polly,” wrote a weekly neighborhood column for The Randall News in Jewell County, Kansas from 1901 to 1903. I have heard impressive tales of Aunt Polly’s jug of sunshine water! Some of the “news” printed back then would make informatively hilarious modern-day tweets:
“Little Mary Cottage has been very sick, but is better now.”
“Old Man Smoots finds out that he don’t know much about cooking, and can’t even boil water without burning it.”
“On account of muddy roads there was not much news gathered by Aunt Polly.”
“The cry among the farmers of this neighborhood is, ‘Have you got any binding twine to spare?’”
“Marley Twardy had one of his fingers nearly cut off with a corn knife a few days ago.”
“Elias Dale and family mourn the loss of their old family mare, Kit.”
“Ye scribe enjoyed a regular old-fashioned butchering, sausage making and such like, at the home of Grandpa Zentz, one day last week.”
“We hear that Hamlet Curd is in the lightning rod business. We hope this is not a humbug and trust he may meet with success.”
“Mud! Mud!! Mud!!!”
“Roy and Fay Dale both fell out of a wagon on Tuesday.”
Although one can find a myriad of alternatives to reading the physical newspaper; options like Twitter, Facebook and online news sources viewed on computers, tablets or smart phones, it is the act of holding the physical, real newspaper that makes it a unique experience. I hope newspapers do not go the way of the dinosaur and last a very long time. Especially publications that focus on local news.
Russ Dale is the circulation manager at the Pratt Tribune.