How do you explain a newspaper to today’s youth?
Many of today’s young people don’t see the value of newspapers. They have their heads and minds buried deeply into their cell phones, not just for talking and texting but for writing, typing, viewing videos and storing thousands of digital photographs. They Snapchat, Instragram, Facebook, Twitter and Kik. But they’re not picking up and reading newspapers. But even though I have fallen in love with computers, newspapers still have a purpose.
By Ray Hanania
That’s the question I posed recently during a regional conference hosted by UNITY: Journalists for Diversity last month at Loyola University’s Chicago Loop campus.
No one in the audience raised their hand.
Of course, not I said. Nothing looks better in a picture frame on a wall than the front page of a newspaper. And sadly, I was reminded of that enthusiastic view of the steady demise of a dying print journalism industry this past week when the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians to win the 2016 World Series in seven games that included a tense, nerve-racking tied 10th inning that the Cubs finally won.
Whew! When Cubs First baseman Anthony Rizzo caught the ball to tag out Michael Martinez at first, that ended the series and the Cubs took the title, their first World Series victory since 1908.
It was one of those moments that you never forget. Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated? Where were you when Princess Di was killed in the Paris car crash? Where were you when Rizzo tagged the final out in the 10th inning of a nail-biter 7th Game of the World Series to give the Cubs the victory?
These are major moments in life. Tragedy and joy. Moments that you never forget. Cubs fans won’t forget because of the 108 year World Series drought.
And one way to remember is with newspapers. Front pages laid out in a picture frame and hung on the wall for you, and all, to see. And remember.
As it turns out, I’ve purchased newspapers a few times but not as often as I used to when I was a newspaper reporter covering Chicago City Hall. These days, I subscribe to online news media to get my daily dose of what’s happening in the world, and not are all “newspapers.”
There is still a demand to know what’s happening in the world and as much as we hate the bias, racism and bigotry of the news media, sometimes, the media is the only place to start to find out what’s happening.
So after each game of the World Series, I went out dutifully and purchased not one but two copies of each of the major daily newspapers that covered their front pages with wild screaming headlines and brilliantly colored photographs of the Cubs and Cleveland players in action.
And I piled the newspapers I bought in my downstairs office on top of an already existing big pile of browning copies of older newspapers that marked the history of our little world. Front pages that marked happy and sad occasions. The JFK assassination newspapers are there. The assassination of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. The end of World War II. American attacks Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley dies of a heart attack. Jane Byrne wins becoming the first woman mayor of Chicago. The Twin Towers in New York City collapsing on Sept. 11, 2001.
There’s a reason the newspaper and media industry hug the old saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Meaning that tragedy, blood, guts, murder, mayhem and sorrow drive the sale of newspapers. Don’t blame it on the dying newspaper industry. Blame it on yourself. Because that is exactly what you want.
You slow down in a gapers block of life as you pass tragedy, or, tragedy passes you. Maybe it reminds us that the tragedy doesn’t involve us. It’s not us.
And when the excitement subsides, we go back to our virtual lives consumed by expensive computer technology. Computers. Cell phones. Internet. WiFi. Clouds. Digital images. Thousands of digital images.
When I was a kid, we used rolls of film that took 24 or 36 pictures. The roles were expensive so you were careful to try to get the perfect picture shot and hope you didn’t waste a picture. Once all the pictures were taken — sometimes it would be all at one event like at a wedding, or in a series of events that could span days, weeks and even months — you would wind the roll back up and then remove it from the camera and take it to a store to process. That cost money, too. And it often took a week. As technology improved, it took 24 hours, and that was considered exciting.
You would bring the pictures home with the “negatives,” reverse images of the pictures you could use to print more copies if you wanted, and then put the pictures in photo albums. And the photo albums would grow in thickness and even in numbers. And we would complain about how many albums we had. But they were usually chronological, if you placed the photos in the albums as they were taken.
Photo albums created a wonderful, easy to see and understand and appreciate road map of your life. They lasted a long time, too. I still have many photo albums of different types in my closet.
Digital images replaced it all. You can still convert a digital image into a print photo, or even print some out on a color printer, believing you can save money without paying Walgreens to process the film and print them. Although the color printers cost between $150 and $600, with prices falling as demand for them dropped, too.
But today, taking a picture is so easy and it costs nothing. Yet, some how cheap is not always good, although the quality of the images is amazing.
At last count, I had 7,785 digital photos in my iCloud. I couldn’t possibly go through them with any relaxed sense of enjoyment. Yet I feel like I have something that’s of value to me, even though I really can’t spend much time looking at them, enjoying them or doing anything with them.
Isn’t that called hoarding?
So when I have the opportunity to collect something unique. Unusual. Rare. Something I don’t always enjoy, I do it. I buy the newspaper to remember an important big event.
Not buying newspapers as often as I did, now forces me to take the dog out more for a walk. I still have never wrapped a fish in a newspaper, either, though I have known some mobsters in my day.
I may not spend any time reading through the newspapers I collect. But I have them in a pile, growing tall and becoming crisp and brown with age.
Tell me the point of it all is?
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. Email him at email@example.com.)