Reflective Caturday – Mourning the Demise of the Written Word in Print

The Times-Picayune hit its pinnacle in 2005 reporting about Hurricane Katrina. The paper was so devoted to printing the daily news that it was only shut down for 3 days during the devastating ordeal.

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…

You used to see everyone reading a newspaper, book, or magazine at the airport. This is sadly no longer the case as most of these printed items have been replaced by iPads, laptops, iTunes, cell phones, Nooks, Kindles, and other technological wonders.

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.

Calvin and Hobbes was in syndication from 1985 to 1995 and still remains in print as reruns in many newspapers today. This strip is classic as Hobbes shares his simple but profound wisdom with Calvin (click image to enlarge).

The Garfield comic strip was created in 1978 by Bill Davis and is still going strong today. In this strip, Garfield meets Nermal the cute kitten for the first time. Suffice it to say, it is the mirror reaction of Zee meeting Kizmet and the similarites between my two cats is not lost on me… Click image to enlarge.

Color Zee orange and he may as well be Garfield as he looks on at Kizmet and HIS food bowl. Kizmet is the spitting image of Nermal who was portrayed as always flaunting his cuteness to the irration of Garfield (anyone remember Zee’s reaction to Kizmet’s outdoor adventure?)

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…

I have the comfortable couch and plenty of kitties willing and able to curl up with me… now all I need is to grab a book and a cup of coffee to settle down for a good read! Any suggestions for my reading list?

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  1. I am much the same, Deb…as I suspect more and more people are. We get a newspaper once a year, delivered for free the day after Thanksgiving. My husband uses it while polishing his shoes over the course of the whole next year. It’s sad really…but seems to be the way of the world. On the flip side, there is a sense of community in our crazy little cat centric world of Facebook. After all…it’s how I know what’s going on in your life! …and I’m very grateful for the friendships that have sprouted as a result of this technology trend.
    xo, Glogirly

    • Deb says:

      Glogirly – I treasure our cat community as well and am equally as grateful for our friendship but it is hard to shake the sadness I feel. But, technology, growth, innovation, and change has always been the way of the world. That is a fact – I just wish we could slow down and appreciate what we have for longer stretches at a time!

  2. Kathy Mangan says:

    Suggestions for reading Shirley Rouseau Murphy’s mysteries with the cat PIs, Joe Grey, Dulcie and Kit. They were the first novels, that my husband , a technical reader read to completion. http://www.joegrey.com/

  3. BJ Bangs says:

    What an interesting post. As a newspaper person for much of my professional life, I find it very, very sad to hear of another journalistic hallmark shuttering their doors or going through major cutbacks. I don’t think newspapers will totally disappear, but I think they will dramatically change. They need to create another niche and become more interactive. Not just newspapers, but all media, including electronic. Who would ever have dreamed YouTube would become a news source, but it sure has.

    I like you ,cut the daily newspaper out of my budget because it was not a necessity. Time is as much a factor as the dollars. I particularly related to your comments about being a magazine hoarder. I’m always going to read a magazine and then another one comes in the mail. I scan Women’s Day – because their covers are irresistible – read CatFancy and try to squeeze in National Geographic. I take a few other cat related newsletters as well.

    I don’t think bloggers are part of the problem. I think we are products to what today is. We offer diverse views on various issues, including cat related issues. People can pick and choose what they are interested in. People have more choices today, than ever. But that also takes a little bit more out of their time – and I think that’s what’s happening to traditional media.

    I also find it very sad to find the newsletter becoming a dying beast. It’s so refreshing to see some great illustrations and pictures. We can do this through our blogs but it just isn’t he same. As for books, we know the future will change as well. But it just isn’t the same curling up with a kindle or your laptop in front of the wood stove on a cold snowy day.

    • Deb says:

      BJ – I really enjoyed your thoughtful and insightful comment. I think you really hit the crux of the issue, or at least for me. Time is very much a key issue. I think if I had more of it that I would be more inclined to read newspapers and magazines again. I never stopped reading them because I did not enjoy the content. And yes, bloggers are definitely a product of what today is and I cannot dispute the fact that we have tremendous power, especially us cat bloggers, to help educate and inform alarger audience than a newspaper ever will. I am constantly amazed by the wonderful people I have met as a result of blogging that never would have happened otherwise and how our blogs have become an important part of their lives.

  4. Cathy Keisha says:

    My peeps still get the paper delivered every day and they like it that way. Both peeps are/were in the publishing business. TW lost her job because of lost circulation due to the internet and Pop is barely hanging on to his. They hate lugging the recyclables out to the Refuse Room but like not looking at a computer screen 24/7.

    • Deb says:

      So many people are in the same boat, Cathy Keisha, which is so sad – it is such a snowball effect. Anyhow, glad you still get the paper – even though recycling can be a pain, it is a good thing to do!

  5. Chris Davis says:

    I saw that episode, Deb – very sad. I also had the unimaginable pleasure of spending several hours in Powell’s Bookstore on Friday. Powell’s is the largest independent bookstore in the world. I was looking for books on Merlin and King Arthur for the new book I’m writing, and was sent to the Arthurian bookshelf in mythology. I actually got teary-eyed looking at all those magical titles! The smell of the books was intoxicating.

    The store was alive with people, all holding those bound pieces of paper in their hands. I do read eBooks, and I have created one eBook, but there is nothing better than holding someone’s written creation in your hands.

    When I checked out with my books, the man behind the counter asked if the books were for research. I said they were for a book I was writing. “Fiction or non-fiction?” he asked. I smiled and answered, “Miraculous!”

    • Deb says:

      What a wonderful experience at Powells, Chris. Your descriptive words have brought me right there with you! It sounds like you traveled back in time…

  6. Kathy Mangan says:

    Last night on Sixty Minutes I think, there was a segment about technology and computers and down in a Texas somewhere, a university or college now has library where there are no books! Just kindles, computers and Nooks. It was just opened recently.

    • Deb says:

      Kathy – I missed 60 Minutes last night and am glad based on what you have commented!! Wow… no books… I am having a lot of trouble processing that!

  7. Deb, I feel exactly the same. I love the feel of a book or newspaper in my hands. I don’t seem to absorb what I’m reading unless it’s in print. I don’t know where we’d be without the books and diaries of so many famous and not-so-famous people. Thank you for writing about this. I missed 60 Minutes last night. I haven’t quite gotten over the demise of Borders Books. Ateret, Livia, Abbi and I send your cats and you our kindest regards. Stephanie

    • Deb says:

      Musings, I miss Borders too. We still have Barnes and Noble, but Borders had a certain charm that I really enjoyed. Regards back to you and your sweet kitties!

  8. CATachresis says:

    You are so right, Deb. I hardly ever buy a newspaper. In fact the one Austin was rolling in the other day was the first I had bought in months! We get so much info now immediately online, that by the time the print comes out it is old hat! I also have kindle and haven’t read a “proper” book in ages! I am not sure whether our generation will be the last to remember how it was, with the smell of a new book, or newsprint and the excitement that brought. Now everything smells/feels the same!!

    we have all this information and access to untold cyber wonders at our finger tips now, but I do wonder whether the sense of discovery we feel when looking at the tangible world around us is being lost?

    • Deb says:

      CATachresis – having raised two boys in the midst of the technological world we live in, I can say that the sense of discovery that kids today (and even adults) feel about something now versus years ago has changed. For example, with movies – everything has to be bigger, louder, and more technologically advanced with special effects than the last movie. That in and of itself takes away the magic – we are already so trained to these larger than life effects that they are no longer special and the joy becomes diluted. I remember when ET came to theaters – it seemed so amazing – when you watch it today, even though it is still one of my favorite movies, it seems like the special effects were made by an amateur in comparison to the technology of today! Just like with the news, it becomes wallpaper background and common which is such a shame…. I truly think all this instant technology has made us immune in many ways to the simple joys of life…. such as an old fashioned newspaper!

  9. MizzBassie says:

    Daddy still prefers to read his newspapers and books in paper form. He’s such a Luddite! Besides, he says the online newspapers don’t have all the stuff the “real” ones do. He collects them, too, but mommy only allows two boxes. When the third box gets full, the oldest one of the other two gets tossed. Otherwise, we would be buried in old newspapers.

    Mommy likes to read some books on her tablet or phone but others (like crafts books with lots of pictures) are better in paper form. She absolutely hates turning the pages on the huge paper newspapers and getting her hands dirty, so she prefers the online ones.

    It’s sad about paper papers but good about the new ways of getting them online and the other ways of getting news. And good about people with the same interests that would have never found each other getting together online. There’s good and bad in everything. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs.