When I Cancelled my Subscription to the Paper

A couple of weeks ago, I canceled my daily newspaper. It was the San Diego Union Tribune. But it could have been any other paper in any other part of the country.

It was the paper that would land on my sidewalk or driveway in the morning. I’d never taken an evening paper. All my life, it seemed, I got those folded pages of newsprint that told me, every morning, what was important in the world. It divided the world into sections that gave me news that was local, national and international. It told me the latest sport scores and developments. Sports must be very important since a whole section of the paper was devoted to it.

My front walk when I don’t get a paper.

It gave me the funnies which my children actually read every Sunday for a while, until they got computers and smartphones and stopped looking at newspapers altogether.

I didn’t stop my subscription because I was  dissatisfied with the Union Tribune. It’s because it seemed more and more absurd to have a car drive by my house in the morning and throw a wad of paper at my doorstep with news that I already had, via the Internet. It seemed like a waste. It seemed like a custom that only continued thanks to the habits of people who were dying out.

I never really liked the business of reading a broadsheet newspaper. It was big and cumbersome. Holding it up for any length of time made my arms weary. Back in the old days the ink of the newsprint would leave black smudges on my fingers that I would  transfer to shirts and towels. It was little more than the weight of habit and custom that made me still read them.

But that weight of custom – the years of momentum that kept daily papers going – was a great gift to journalism. Nothing surpassed the daily paper as a bastion for factual reporting and for telling American citizens what they needed to know to live in a democracy. As the institution and the business model of the newspaper has faded away, nothing else is adequately replaced it, and we still don’t know if anything will.

After I cancelled my subscription to the U-T, a funny thing happened. They still deliver it to me on weekdays. I thought maybe my delivery man (there are no more paperboys) was confused. But now I wonder if maybe the U-T wants to keep delivering it to me to keep their circulation numbers up. Even though I’m not paying for the delivery, maybe it’s financially worth it to them to keep telling their advertisers that I’m looking through the pages of their paper.

And I do, and I will, as long as I keep getting it for free. I’ll still flip through it and make note of the headlines. If I land on a story that’s especially interesting I’ll read at least the first few paragraphs, if not the whole thing. I’ve been reading a daily newspaper for decades, and old habits die hard.

 

 

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