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 This is sadly no longer the case as most of these printed items have been replaced by iPads, laptops, iTunes, cell phones, Nooks, Kindles, and other technological wonders.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. Great article Deb and love the latest cat photos!
    Was WOWED by the Zee mousepad in your awesome new boutique!

    Check out the Kickstarter Handbook on my website…

    Have an awesome weekend! 🙂

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Create With Joy – I happen to own that mousepad and it is even more beautiful in person. You have a great weekend as well and I will have to give your Kickstarter a look!

  2. Marg says:

    Love that last picture and also the picture of Zee and Kismet. I don’t think many people read the paper much any more. And the saddest thing is that no one writes letters any more either. Just email. But the internet does give us a chance to get to know people all over the world which we wouldn’t other wise do.

    • Deb says:

      You are right, Marg. Letter writing appears to be a lost art as well. I still have letters saved in boxes from friends and family members – I don’t often take them out to read anymore, but it does give me comfort knowing they exist.

  3. You know my mother still gets the Sunday paper delivered to her front door (the advantage of condo living-you don’t have to go outside) and comfortably reads it from beginning to end (except the sports section) sitting in the breakfast nook while eating a healthy oatmeal breakfast with raisin bread. The elderly still prefer it to the Internet and tablets. You know it just hit me. With the rising rate of people retiring faster than the birth rate, it is possible that printed materials will remain. But the question is, if you use technology to read now before retirement, will you continue to use technology for reading materials or revert to hard print??? Now that is a crucial question publishing and printing companies need to find the answer to. In marketing we study people’s habits and trends together to keep current and stay in business.

    Do not worry Deb that you contributed to the demise of hard print. It’s about evolving and success and that means saving time and money. Our pace of life becomes faster and faster with the advancement of technology. I remember when fax machines first appeared when I was a young student working at an office during summer vacations. It certainly saved time from mailing a document or paying big money to hire messenger.

    I used to read the sundry paper as well but nowadays I either work here or work there. I miss it except I always hated the ink on my fingers I started wearing latex gloves! No kidding. I used to read avidly also, a good book , every few months. But with 2 full time jobs its impossible. I recommend Three Cups of Tea. Amazing book and one of the top best sellers. The sequel came out a couple of years ago and I have not read it yet.

    Thank you for this post. It has reminded me to find a solution to regain that personal time. I too love the Garfield cartoons. Now I have the adventures of Zee and Zoey and clan to keep me smiling.

    Once upon I wrote book reviews. Feel free to visit my personal website for other recommendations.

    • Deb says:

      Very interesting question about technology as we age, Christine. Much as I don’t have the time to read much anymore, I do envision a day where a cup of coffee and the newspaper is how I greet each morning. Thank you for the book recommendation and for such a thoughtful comment.

  4. mariodacat says:

    Whoa – your photos are stunning., I don’t know what you use for a camera, but it takes outstanding pictures. We still take the daily paper because D reads it. But M only reads the Sunday paper and all the ads. It is sad to see our world changing so fast, but the instant access to world news is great too.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Mariodacat – the photos are taken by my fiance who has incredible talent. But, also, the cats have such a love and trust for him that his photos are able to capture that pure essence of them being themselves.

  5. Cheysuli says:

    The Seattle paper is one that no longer exists. The Times and the PI have a joint Sunday paper but that’s it. It is sad to see the papers dying off. We read Huffington Post regularly, but that’s arguable whether that’s an online newspaper. Sadly the others are all corporate owned so it’s hard to get real news–which I think is something the mainstream papers should realize–those of us still reading want indepth coverage and information and not always the cute articles.

    • Deb says:

      Chey – I am sorry to hear that the Seattle paper no longer exists. While I might not read a newspaper as much as I want to, I still prefer that format than to going online. Unfortunatley, cute and fluffy is what sells. As cat bloggers, we know that for a fact. Post a picture of a kitty with its belly exposed and you will get tons of responses… write an indepth article… not so much!

      • Deb you and I have discussed that and it is sooo true! But, stay true to yourself and continue doing what you do so wonderfully and so eloquently….WE are reading!

      • Deb says:

        Thank you Caren! In that regard, you and I are very much alike. I don’t know any other way, than to be true to myself!! I appreciate the support and thanks also on the decorating compliment!! Cats do go with anything, don’t they!?

  6. this post is particularly close to my heart and I will try to be brief. It is close to me for a myriad of reasons, one being “I am a newspaper brat” My father, before he became a famous Editorial Cartoonist for The Plain Dealer (Ohio’s largest newspaper, in Cleveland) was a staff artist at the Pittsburgh Press. So I was raised with newsprint and the ink in my blood. My father’s career lasted 30 yrs……I joined the same newspaper in 1980 and worked there in advertising for 21 and a half years. When I left the Internet was just beginning to cut into the newspaper’s advertising dollars.
    I have a love of the written word and particularly newspapers. It saddens me to read about newspapers folding and going to “online only” publication. Yep as much as we love technology it has caused this, the younger generation isn’t able to relate to the delights of sitting and reading a TANGIBLE book or a newspaper.
    This is partly why I refuse to own a Nook or a Kindle for as long as I possibly can hold out.
    I was given sad news a few weeks ago by a former colleague at the paper that The Plain Dealer might also go to a 3 day a week publishing schedule, it is a rumor at this point and I pray it isn’t true. The Plain Dealer also began in the 1800s.
    Newspapers in the form that you and I know and love them, sadly, YES are dying…..but they won’t die completely. They will live on in a digital format and that is one technological “advance” that completely breaks my heart.

    • Deb says:

      Caren – I can only imagine how bittersweet this topic is for you and why the mourning is so much more personal for you. It truly is sad to think that the younger generation won’t know the delights of old fashioned, tangible reading, but, truthfully, they are products of their environment, so sometimes you can’t miss what you never really had in the first place. Kids are practically born with technology in their hands – even the toys from Fisher Price are geared to technology – toy iPhones, toy digital cameras and so on….

      I’m with you on this one… despite that I admit I don’t read the paper as much as I want to and I do use technology on a daily basis, had I been able to predict the future years ago, I would have strongly wished for technology to slow down so that we could keep the world a bit more grounded and real.

  7. Sally Bahner says:

    So many thoughts on this! I’m stuck between the two worlds. I’m a former newspaper editor (my chain of print weeklies was axed four years ago) and now contributor to a local online newspaper. I’m always on the NY Times website and that of our local daily, but I still pick up two Sunday papers. I work for a book publisher, primarily print, but we’ve also been creating ebooks and related apps.
    Lusting after an iPad, but can’t justify the expense since I pretty much go between my computer at home and computer at work. No cell phone, no need, too expensive.
    When I think about what things were like when my career started 40 years ago, I’m totally blown away.

    • Deb says:

      You bring a very interesting perspective to the discussion, Sally. My foray into the writing world is relatively new, so I don’t have much of a yardstick to compare it to. It’s just an inner struggle that I feel as of late – I just feel the world is growing too fast technologically. Why do our current computers and cell phones have to be improved upon even further? The moment you buy them, they are already obselte. Can’t we just slow down and enjoy what we have? It’s a very ironic state of affairs – technology can improve our lives, our health, and so much more. Yet it is also responsible for the loss of so many jobs and precious landmark types of institutions…

  8. Lisa here. I feel the same as you when I look at my habits: almost all the books I read now are e-books. I get my news on my phone via flipboard and pulse – and it’s aggregated based on what *I’m* interested in. Then there’s NPR en route to work. And of course, facebook.

    [People don’t even need the paper for Black Friday any more, thanks to all the Black Friday sites that pop up…in September. Gah!]

    It does feel like the end of an era.

    Just a thought: when was the last time anyone recalls hearing the phrase “Fairness Doctrine”? With 24/7 cable news, that’s a concept of the past. I can’t help but think if we were all forced to hear all sides of an issue, perhaps the U.S. wouldn’t be as polarized as we have become …?

    • Deb says:

      Excellent points, Lisa. We now have the ability to gear the news that we hear towards our own views and habits, which has a tendency to water down the fact that there are always more to a story than meets the eye. Fairness Doctrine? Hmmm… Fox News uses the tagline “Fair and Balanced,” but I don’t know if there is such a thing any more…. The other thing I notice happening more and more is the need for the media to be the first to uncover the story and often as a result of that, the facts are immediately incorrect or sometimes completely untrue because proper time has not been given to letting the story unfold. How many times has it been reported that Brett Michaels has died?

  9. Great post. We get the the NYTimes delivered daily. I’m a magazine and book junkie as you know review books at two blogs.

    • Deb says:

      Layla – if I were to have my ideal life, it would be one in which I could support myself via writing about cats, but sadly that is not the case and I am forced to work a day job! I think if that were not the case, that I would read newspapers and magazines on a more regular basis. It just seems that between driving to and from work, that I come home utterly exhausted and reading is at the bottom of my wish list. One can dream can’t they!??

  10. Fisher says:

    Wonderful article! I had so many magazines piling up because they were practically giving them away in an effort to keep up circulation. I finally had to just stop. The only subscription I have is our Sunday paper, which I savor over the course of the entire week. I know I’m not kidding anyone, but it makes me feel better.

  11. Here we get the newspaper in the mailbox 6 day´s a week.
    I don´t think I could live without a real newspaper made of just paper 🙂
    LOVE the picture on Zee and Kizmet , it´s really cute <3

    • Deb says:

      Kjelle Bus – I agree with you, nothing is better than something made out of just paper!!! Glad you enjoyed the picture of Zee and Kizmet!

  12. I am a diehard newspaper fan. I must have my daily paper to read over breakfast. We don’t get deliveries here, so whilst I get breakfast, Ivor drives to the village about 2 miles away and gets our papers. It wouldn’t be the same without them. I have toyed with the idea of getting a Kindle or similar, but if I am totally honest, they just don’t appeal to me and I would much rather curl up with a “proper” book.

    • Deb says:

      Sigh… you do realize I am making assumptions, but there is just something so quaint and charming about your response. Count me in as part of the club that does not want a Kindle and the next time you read your daily paper, please give it a scan for me as well!!

  13. Connie Marie says:

    Deb, First, You have such a lovely home and cats. I see the similarities between Garfield and Zee and Kizmet, I always read him. I have Snoopys last printed comic framed on my wall. I’ve bought the books of all those comics at
    1\2 Price Books and that’s what my son learned to read on. We both love real books. I will get yours someday I promise.
    You’ve written a book, so you’ve helped written material more than ever hindered it by your blog. I wouldn’t of had any way of finding about some books without yours and the other blogs I read if not for my finally reliable smartphone. It’s my only source of news now due to $$ restraints.
    Our local paper is far better in print than in digital.
    We are one home that will always prefer print!
    Relax and enjoy a book this weekend, sometimes that’s just a must!@

    • Deb says:

      Connie – it never fails with you. You always make me feel inspired to share my thoughts and I really appreciate your heartfelt words. I love Snoopy too and have all the Charlie Brown books as well as Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, Fox Trot, Dilbert, Opus the Penguin, and Far Side and I think I own all of them!

      You have a wonderful weekend as well and thank you for being the special you that you are!!! 🙂

  14. Mr Puddy says:

    Daddy does read newspaper sometime, But it’s a paper. Mom, she do nothing about newspaper ; ) But my dad love news. If he is home, he will turn on the TV. whole day, Just to stay tune on news. so whatever mom like news or not, she will get the message in some way.
    Latest Magazine, mom read it’s my interview on MouseBreath..tee..heh and Thanks so much to make a nice comment for me on MouseBreath.

    In some way, your last photo made me confuse between da kitties and da pillows..I guess you made it like a game. ” How many kitties in da picture ? “…MOL

    Happy Weekend to you and the kitties : )

    • Deb says:

      Yes, Mr. Puddy, it is like that for the human Mom here too – because the human Dad likes news so much, she gets the message in some way too!! We really loved your MouseBreath interview and think you will be a world famous kitty one day!!

  15. Yep, it’s a changing world. Our humans still get a newspaper delivered but only 3 days a week. The dad loves reading the paper, the mom not so much anymore. She reads it online. But she still gets magazines and tries to read them when she can…which is not very often given she spends so much time on the computer.

    • Deb says:

      Island Cats – the male human here loves to read the news too, but he does it all online and really likes the convenience of the Internet.

  16. Bernadette says:

    I may obtain a good bit of my news on my computer–especially since I don’t have a television, but listen to public radio most of the day–but when I read on my computer I’m nowhere near as attentive as I was when I read my daily paper, or my Sunday paper. And I wasn’t permitted to read the comics and do the crossword puzzle until I’d read everything I was going to read, no jumping to the fun stuff, dessert only after a fulfilling meal. I discontinued paper delivery when I had full- and part-time jobs and didn’t even take it out of the bag anymore. I miss it, though.

    • Deb says:

      Bernadette – although I could jump to the comics and fun stuff any time I wanted, I always waited until the end too – it was my favorite part of the paper and I wanted to savor the moment!

  17. Penelope says:

    Great post! I have been an avid reader my whole life and have loved books! Not only did we lug 500 or so books around (17 moves in 21 years) but magazines too! But times change. Living in a teeny tiny village, I can no longer get my book fix. No second hand book stores, I’ve read everything in the library and getting to a bookstore that carries what I might want to read in the big city is almost impossible, and in Canada, buying a book online and having it shipped to you! The postage is as much as the book! I broke and started getting books to read on my iPad and for Christmas I got a nook.
    One of my favorite places to read is in the bathtub, I am waiting for the day I accidentally drop my electronic book in the tub….
    Nellie’s Mom

    • Deb says:

      Nellie’s Mom – you bring up an interesting point regarding the cost of having a book shipped to you and I can understand why you would find a Nook so useful. When I was younger, we lived in the country, miles away from the main town and my biggest treat was going to the library. I would check out as many books at a time that they would let me, I think the limit was 10, and the librarian would always tell me there was no way I would finish reading them before they were due back. Well, of course, she was wrong. I had an endless appetite for reading and books helped get me through many a rough time in my life. Anyhow, you be careful in the tub with that Nook!!

  18. meowmeowmans says:

    What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Deb. More and more, we find ourselves reading our news online. But when we do, we miss the tangible feel of a physical newspaper, magazine, or book. We still find it a treat to get the Sunday paper, and lay around reading it. 🙂

  19. The Chronicle (or Comical as it is less-than-affectionately known hereabouts) is still publishing every day, but it is a shadow of its former self. I confess I have contributed my bit to its perhaps-impending demise as I read sfgate (its web version) everyday and I never buy the print edition anymore (well…except for the day after the Giants won the World Series (I’ll buy another if the Niners stay in it long enough to win the Superbowl!)

    I do have a Kindle, but I really don’t use it much. I still enjoy the actual physical book. But honestly, I think ALL print publications are headed for extinction. And that makes me a little sad.

    And you know, California schools are not teaching cursive anymore. There’s a connection there somewhere….

    • Deb says:

      Oh Spitty… cursive writing!! Don’t get me started!! That is a blog post in and of itself and I agree that there is a connection. I find it very sad that we reduce our lives to writing within 140 characters, such as with Twitter – we make up or abbreviate words and all this writing in lower case letters….

      • Sally Bahner says:

        And grammar!! Don’t get me going on grammar! Even in the remaining newspapers, copy editors and proofreads are gone! My the time my newspapers closed, the staff was bare bones. We were doing everything!

      • Deb says:

        Oh my goodness, Sally!! This topic could go on and on… I had not even thought of the fact that due to economic downsizing that copy editors and proofreaders would be gone. So sad… How will our children ever learn proper grammar in this day and age?

  20. Tracy Dion says:

    Hi, Deb.

    You asked for reading suggestions, so here are two books I thought were fun:

    ‘Tailchaser’s Song’ by Tad Williams, and ‘The Catswold Portal’ by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

    Best regards!