That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

How much of your life is wrapped up in newspapers?

Newspapers are an institution, like the corner milk bar and its one cent lollies. It broke my heart a little when Fairfax announced they would be winding back their print newspaper business in favour of online news back in June. Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes have both reportedly predicted that printed versions will cease to exist within the next 10 years.

Why did it make me so sad? The newspaper is where our intellectual life meets our public life. Newspapers represent the kind of meandering, thoughtful, digestive life we should be trying to preserve. They’re an important part of democracy, and good journalism is there to hold big business and government accountable.

Once upon a time, the newspaper was the place to get to the bottom of things, to get the full story. Digital news is hurried and patchy, like a teenage chicken stuck somewhere between down and feathers. It’s incomplete, frequently inaccurate (or full of spelling mistakes) and doesn’t tell the full story … because the full story hasn’t always unfolded at the time it’s posted on the internet. It’s not readers asking for the fastest news: the technology seems to rudely imply it. The internet has the pace of a teenage boy: frenzied and a teensy bit desperate. For attention, for bigger things, for life to begin. Sure, it’ll grow to be a fine young man one day, but in the meantime, how do we slow the pace down?

If the newspaper slides into extinction, I wonder if our culture will slide further into a state of distraction, driven by trends, ‘likes’, hashtags and pretty, shiny things.

Newspapers: take them fishing, wrap up your potato peels, line the nesting boxes of your hen house. You can’t do that with digital news. A newspaper can be shaped into a hat, a boat, or a sword for the short people in your life. Without newspapers in the compost heap of our days, I wonder if the delicate balance that allows us to direct the pace of our free time will be destroyed. Perhaps we don’t read anymore: or fish, or peel our own vegetables, or keep chickens. Remember a time when this was the considered the good life?

There is a romance to reading the paper. My husband was reading the paper during the labours of our eldest sons. The first labour, induced and long, happened on Trading Post day (devotees will remember Trading Post day as a Thursday. They stopped printing it a few years ago.)

“How much would you ask for a 1978 pop-top caravan? Go on? How much?” he’d ask, as I was reaching another contraction.

“Uuuuurgggggh … eeeehh, feoooow…” I replied.

Our second son was a little more rushed. Also born on a Thursday, The Age provided a useful distraction for Mr Karen as I was anaesthetised and prepared for an emergency caesarian. There was no time for bargaining and haggling on this morning, instead he read out the news and weather to me in an operating room full of a dozen medical professionals. As the doctors performed a minor miracle on the other side of the green curtain, he held my hand in his, and in his other hand he held the paper. To say my husband spent that time clicking on his smart phone would paint a picture of distraction, of adolescent searching for the end of boredom, to fill a hunger as big as the world wide web itself. The reality was an anxious dad, sailing across a worried sea on a small boat made of paper.

Where do you get your news from?

16 Responses to “How much of your life is wrapped up in newspapers?”

  1. sarahtsib

    Every saturday night the husband and I go to bed early with our sections of the paper – I like news review, spectrum, real estate (for a good stickybeak) and the Good Weekend. He gets the rest and then right when we’ve reached our news limit we do the weekly quiz in the back of the GW chuckling at our strengths and weaknesses. Im worried what will happen to our time together if we are not both facing each other with papers held in front. Sad day indeed.

    Reply
    • the rhythm method

      We do the quiz too. The Saturday paper is such a communal thing, isn’t it? I used to split it three ways with my sister and mum, and you could stretch it out for a whole afternoon.

      Reply
  2. Zanni Arnot

    I do agree…there is a certain sentimentality tied up in a newspaper. I used to love Sundays with the Age, the Good Weekend laid out next to a coffee. Now, I don’t have time for papers…haven’t bought one in years. But to be honest, I don’t read online news either. The teenage chicken analogy works for me there. I get news third hand, via Gruen Transfer, Q&A or …dare I say it, Facebook. It just has no room in my life any more. At best, I listen to the headlines on the radio.
    But I think my love of newspapers only ever went as far as the arts pages and the Good Weekend…the rest was a big pile of paper I felt sad about throwing away unread and useless.

    Terrific post, as always, Karen. It’s amazing that you managed to get out a response at all between contractions! Zanni

    Reply
  3. thesundrunkthepuddles

    I think of my old journalism lecturers, (they were in their 60’s back in the mid nineties) and how they spoke to us about their life in newspapers. It all sounded so romantic to me. Their stories were rich. I feel sad that this world is ending, maybe the online news world will grow up but at the moment it feels so overwhelming, access to information is important but it comes back to the old quality versus quantity, I think.

    I’m getting tired of reading the same stuff over and over and over, blogs, online mags, online communities, where will the online newspapers wash up?

    Think of all the tv channels we have now, have they delivered better programming?

    Reply
    • the rhythm method

      Great point, Gill. I’m sick of the repeats too. It seems anyone with a laptop can be a writer nowadays, and it’s more about creating a ‘brand’ and building a ‘platform’ than offering actual stories.
      That said, I’m loving Annabel Crabb’s columns every Sunday. Whatever she’s doing, others should learn from her. She’s one clever peanut.

      Reply
      • thesundrunkthepuddles

        There will always be a handful of good peanuts. Being able to string a sentence together is one thing but having something to say, well that’s more valuable. To me.

        You are one of the good peanuts by the way.

  4. loulouloves

    I hear your pain. I too lamented the day Fairfax announced the demise of the newspaper. How are you to annoy the person sitting to your right on the train without an overly sized and rustley SMH??????

    Reply
  5. Deb @ Bright and Precious

    There is definitely romance in reading a newspaper. They form so many memories for me too. My husband is a old school newspaper man. The Saturday morning ritual is comforting as much for me (to watch) as it is for him to participate. Love your line about the small boat sailing on the worried sea.

    Reply
  6. edenland

    SERIOUSLY I was just thinking about the news tonight. How, as a kid, I remember the rush of 5.55pm and the flurry to put the “news” on and we all sat and watched “the news.” Now, it’s so much more fractured and filtered. (Is it?) And I believe the viewers are much more disbelieving and savvy.

    News is weird … I always felt like, all that news that happened yesterday at 6pm, and now there’s more? Where does it all go – and however does it get resolved?

    Relentless.

    Reply
  7. Carly Findlay

    What a beautiful post. I loved the story of your husband reading the Trading Post while you were giving birth. The thought of being a newspaper journo was romantic to me. I used to buy the Saturday Age and devour it, hoping to write for it some day. Now I don’t have time to read it, my life is taken up with reading online media. I buy the Age about four times a week, but it’s ok if I miss it. I used to be so religious with my paper reading. I read most of the New York Times Sunday edition on my flight from NYC to LA. it felt good. It was good journalism.

    Reply
  8. Kelly Exeter (@kellyexeter)

    Loved this post when you first wrote it and loved the image of your hubby flicking through the Trading Post while you were having contractions! I agree that there is something really nice and unhurried (and a LOT more polished) about the paper and it has it all over digital which I find a bit of a visual assault with all the ads and typos. They distract hugely from the actual content and almost force you to scan rather than read.

    Reply
  9. maxabella

    I will miss the weekend newspapers, but get my week day news online – maybe they could go weekly instead!?! I think the death of print is the death of slow and there is something really sad about that. x

    Reply

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