Reflective Caturday – Mourning the Demise of the Written Word in Print
When I was watching 60 Minutes last week, it was with sadness that I learned another newspaper icon, the New Orleans Times-Picayune that was founded in 1837 would be reducing its daily print publication to 3 times a week as a result of economic cutbacks and its decision to publish the news online.
Unfortunately, decisions like this are no longer a unique storyline, but a reality that has been going on for several years for anything print related that now can be substituted with technological marvels such as email, websites, blogs, Twitter, facebook, Kindles, and so on.
Being an author and avid fan of the written word, especially in a format that can be touched, borrowed, made into a piñata, passed on from generations, displayed on a book shelf, given as a gift, autographed, and so much more, I felt a deep pang of regret, but realized that despite my love for the physical being of print work, that I was part of the problem and an unwitting reason for its decline…
I used to read the newspaper every day, having it delivered the old fashioned way to my house, but must admit I was no intellectual. I scanned the headlines, briefly looked at the society section, and spent the majority of my time with such brain teasing activity as reading my horoscope, Ann Landers, Dr. Ruth, doing the word jumble, reading the comics, and cutting out coupons.
Typical to me, my favorite comics featured cats – the sardonic anthropomorphized tiger in Calvin and Hobbes and the perennially funny, hungry, and lazy Garfield. I also studied the sports section when I was running the company Football Pool (yeah, you read that right) but that all ended years ago during my divorce when money was especially tight and the luxury of getting the newspaper was one of the first items I trimmed from my budget.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve read a newspaper. I get the local edition at the bottom of my driveway once a week, but it is immediately saved in the garage to be used to put under the cat litter boxes and I don’t even glance at it which I admit is a rude habit and one I need to change. The only real effort I make is when we get the mail – if there is a flyer sent I will look at it to see if there is a coupon for $5.00 off at Pet Supermarket, but I don’t think that qualifies as reading.
I also used to be a magazine reader and hoarder. Especially Woman’s Day and Family Circle. I was an avid crafter and saved EVERY magazine I ever got with the intent that one day I would make that really cute stuffed Santa out of old pairs of pantyhose. I moved at least a half dozen times before I ended up here in Florida and would pack and lug those 50 pound boxes of magazines to every new apartment… Sigh, who knew back then that hoarding would become a popular way to get your own TV show? I have long since come to my senses and gotten rid of these magazines, coming to the realization that between work, cats, blogging, social networking, trying to maintain a relationship with Dan and my family, and general housework, that I don’t have time to breathe, let alone macramé plant hangers out of yarn spun from plastic shopping bags… The only magazine I currently buy now and actually read is Cat Fancy and that is something that is not going to change.
I wish I could say I have supplemented the lack of the physical paper by going online to read my news as these defunct publications hope will happen, but that is not the case either. I do watch the news on TV nightly, but the majority of my daily news is filtered through the cat world I live in via facebook. I actually heard of several significant national events BEFORE they made mainstream news due to the network of friends I have. For example, because of Robin Olson of Covered in Cat Hair who lives in Newtown, Ct, I heard about the Sandy Hook shootings before I turned on the TV and saw it on the news and I heard about the earth quake in the Washington DC area in 2011 seconds after it happened due to Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat who made mention of it.
So, even though my life is primarily cat-centric, through social networking I get a snapshot of the world at large which I assume is true for a lot of us today. As a society we now communicate through an ever-changing constant conversation online between friends, colleagues, and peers about current events because we all feel comfortable and compelled to share news with one another. Unlike newspapers where the news is already old when you read it, social networking is literally updated virtually as it happens.
I don’t know if my reading and news gathering habits are considered the norm, but it does appear that newspapers are a dying breed. I still have hope for books, that they will forever remain a part of society despite the onset of Kindles and Nooks. They are my last personal vestige in life to something real, tangible, and precious and no amount of time on the Internet will ever replace the comfort I feel when I cuddle up on the couch with a kitty or two on my lap, a cup of warm coffee at my side, and a wonderful book in my hands. And ironically, I read a wonderful, inspiring and heartfelt article the other day about a woman from North Carolina who runs a cat sanctuary on her property – it was written for the New York Times. Where did I find out about it? Facebook…