I miss newspapers.
Not so much as business entities — which have been disappearing at a rate of about two closures per week in the United States the last two decades — but as tangible objects containing all of the day’s news (make that, yesterday’s news) that you can hold in your hands.
That may sound strange coming from someone who works for an exclusively digital media organization, but I’m a creature of habit. And my habit for about the first 50 years of my life was to grab that day’s paper and immediately begin poring over every page of it (sports section first, of course).
It’s not that newspapers are dead, but they’re certainly on life support. Consider that since 2005, a quarter of all newspapers in the U.S. — more than 2,500 — have closed. That number is projected to reach one-third by 2025.
You can see where this is going. And I hate to see it.
The advantages that digital news has over the printed page are both numerous and enormous, but this isn’t a dissertation on why getting your news with the click of a link is better than getting it with a thud against the front door.
I’m just saying I liked the thud better. I’m talking about the actual sound of the tightly rolled-up newspaper hitting the door on the fly and landing softly on the front porch (and sometimes in the shrubs or grass), courtesy of an adolescent either on foot or a bicycle, with a large sack of newspapers slung over each shoulder.
As a youngster, I couldn’t get home from school fast enough so that I could dive into that day’s newspaper (back when papers were delivered in the afternoon) and see who won all the games from the night before. It was a world before smartphones, the internet and even ESPN (until 1979, anyway), so unless you happened to catch the 11 o’clock news — which wasn’t going to happen on school nights — you had almost no idea what happened in the wide world of sports until the following afternoon. Maybe a game here and there, but for the most part, you were in the dark until the light of day.
Frustrating? Kind of, but you don’t miss what you never had. You just knew the newspaper would bring you up to speed the next day — thus, the excitement of the thud.
Weekends were a little different. Those were morning papers, and by the time I woke up on a Saturday or Sunday, Dad was already knee deep in the paper — and I mean that literally. The newspaper would be spread out across the living room floor, with Dad lounging smack dab in the middle of it in his robe and a cup of hot tea by his side. I almost couldn’t walk through the living room without stepping on some portion of the paper. I would find a good spot on the floor, grab a section of the newspaper and dive in. Reading the paper was an event in our house.
And it was a long event. Newspapers back then, particularly Sunday editions, had some serious bulk to them, loaded with section after section and a mountain of ads. Carrying the paper from the front porch to the kitchen table could have counted as that day’s gym workout. Reading the whole thing would have eaten up much of your day, so you almost had to choose your favorite couple sections and skim the rest. Or read a little bit, put it down for a while, read a little bit more, put it down, and so on the whole day.
Pick it up and put it down. That was the beauty of the newspaper: You held the world in your hands. And the dynamic of touching that tangible object of paper and ink, and even that fresh newspaper smell, somehow made you feel even more connected to the information inside it — and the world around you.
I’m talking here like newspapers are already gone — and in a way, they are. Yes, they still exist, but not like they once did. Instead of a thick, heavy roll, most papers now are wafer thin and take just a few minutes to get through. Too often, that thud against the door has been replaced by a splash in a puddle at the end of your driveway — or in the street.
The newspaper as an object is in its death throes, and the final thud we hear will be the lid closing on top of it. With nearly a third of all newspaper organizations having already ceased operations, and with two of them a week closing their doors, it doesn’t take a mathematician to see what’s coming:
The printed newspaper, already an endangered species, will go extinct.
And I miss it already.
RIP, Big John
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Jan. 28 passing of former Kent State University men’s basketball star John Whorton. A 6-foot-8 center, “Big John” averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game on the Golden Flashes’ 1998-99 team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history, losing to Temple in the first round. Whorton led the Gary Waters-coached Flashes with team-highs of 13 points and nine rebounds in a 61-54 loss to the Owls at the FleetCenter in Boston.
Whorton played for Kent State from 1996 to 2000, averaging 10.2 points and 5.0 rebounds a game in his four years. But he has another claim to fame: In 2016, Whorton and his wife Angel won $1.3 million in the debut of the NBC television game show “The Wall,” produced by none other than LeBron James. You can watch the Whortons’ exciting win here.
After his collegiate days at Kent State, Whorton spent several years playing professional basketball in Europe before returning to the Akron area.
Rest in peace, Big John.
Tom Hardesty is a Portager sports columnist. He was formerly assistant sports editor at the Record-Courier and author of the book Glimpses of Heaven.