The question came when I was visiting my granddaughter.

Newspaper vendor, Paddington, London, February...

Newspaper vendor, Paddington, London, February 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I took it to mean that why, as opposed to her parents, did I buy and read a print newspaper, instead of getting all my news online?

I buy the Boston Globe when I visit her and read The Washington Post every day at home.

I like the feel of newspaper in my hands.

I like the serendipity of reading news articles I spot as I scan or turn a page, instead of having news flash at me while I’m doing other things on the computer.

I like the long form of reading an entire two- or three-page article.

I like the journalistic standard of naming the people who were sources, citing details that help fill out the context of the story.

I even like the fact that reporters try to figure out possible reasons for an event, though I recognize that time and accuracy often battle in this effort.

What we may think is the reason for an event often turns out, several days later, to have been off the mark.

I like the fact that reporters drop bread crumbs for us, to hint at what they can’t yet verify, that we then see in the news a few days later.

For a few weeks before Lyndon Johnson, for instance, announced that he would not run for a second term as President, a victim of the fact that he could not figure out how to end the unpopular war in Vietnam, newspapers were reporting that Lady Bird Johnson was making no plans around housekeeping and decorating  for a second term in the White House.

Recently, when the popular Glee star, Cory Monteith, died, the first reports told us that he was not a victim of homicide, he was alone in the room and that he had a history of rehabilitation for substance abuse.

Thus, the blow a few days later that he had died of a combination of heroin and alcohol was softened.

My husband, who keeps a news feed on his computer screen much of the time, often updates me with news he thinks I’ll want to know.

If I’ve had time to read the newspaper in the morning, little changes during the day from these news flashes that I haven’t already read about.

And, similarly, if I try to alert him to something I’ve just read in the newspaper, he’s probably read a headline about it on the screen the day before.

I like the fact that reporters take the time to track down sources who are experts in the subject of the story and get quotes from them.

I realize that they are telling a story by means of the quotes, not necessarily investigating every time.

I was interviewed by Bernard Kalb once because I was taking a Chinese class just after Nixon had “opened up” China.

I was taking the class because I was a Chinese Studies major. But Kalb wanted to use a Chinese language student to illustrate the increased interest in China because of Nixon’s trip.

I just wasn’t cooperating and didn’t understand that he already had the story line in his head.

Finally, when I told him that I sometimes counted to 10 in Chinese to help my toddler son go to sleep, he had a human interest story he could use.

I don’t know if he did.

I like the fact that my children grew up watching me read the newspaper over breakfast and asked me about stories I was reading, or I shared something they might like.

I like the fact that reading the newspaper makes me feel I am fulfilling part of my duty as a citizen, keeping informed, superseded only by voting in importance in a democracy.

Have newspapers declined?

Yes, argues Wikipedia. There were 1,772 daily newspapers in 1950 and 1,480 in 2000.

Interestingly, there are fewer and a lower percentage of evening papers now. There were 70% (1,450) in 1950 and 50% (766) in 2000.

I far prefer a morning paper to start the day informed, even if I’m going to be listening to news on the radio, often a short form of the same stories.

No, argues Steve Myers, reporting on a study by Stanford University, which claims there are the same number of newspapers now as in the 1890s, that then and now there were 13,000 newspapers.

So, if we assume that the number of newspapers in the Stanford study weren’t all dailies, to reconcile the two reports’ numbers, it’s still a sign of a healthy newspaper industry.

It had better be. Our Constitution guarantees it.

It’s right there, in the very First Amendment: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I’ll take that with my morning oatmeal.

And that, dear granddaughter, is why I read the newspaper.


Do you still read the newspaper?

Do your children?

Do your grandchildren?


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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