End of an Era ... for an Old Newspaperman

As of this month, I have fully come into the 21st century. I have finally given up reading a paper newspaper.

Oh, I have all the other requisites for 21st century residency. I have a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, internet, and Wi-Fi. I’ve embraced smart televisions, video streaming, and Bluetooth speakers. My car diagnoses and reports its own mechanical problems, sports a TV screen with an entertainment center and rearview camera, and answers my smart phone with the push of a button.

 But the one thing I refused to do is give up reading a real broadsheet newspaper. Until this month.

That may not sound like a momentous occasion, but to an old newspaper man it is. 

I grew up in a household with multiple newspaper subscriptions back in the day when there were morning papers and evening papers, and television news was limited to a sensible schedule of morning, afternoon, and late-night half-hour broadcasts. The South Bay Daily Breeze, the Los Angeles Times, and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner were the news sources of my youth.

For a youth who was destined—or, perhaps, doomed—to become a newspaper man, the unfolding of a broadsheet paper with its fragrance of ink and wood pulp was nearly a spiritual experience, and washing the ink off my fingers after finishing the paper a religious ritual.

Even after ending a journalism career spanning more than twenty years and seeing the death of “p.m. newspapers,” I still started each morning with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, unceremoniously tossing away the sports section (I never have and never will read a sports section), setting aside the local and national news sections, and glancing over the front page of the business section before starting my reading with the most important part of the paper—the comics. (Some childhood habits are hard to break).

Unfortunately, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the main paper in San Diego County, decided to hike its subscription cost so much it became unreasonable for me to keep receiving it.

That’s not to say I won’t be reading the news. I still have an electric subscription to the Washington Post, and I have my Yahoo and Microsoft news feeds set to provide me with local news. So, I will continue starting each morning by sipping a cup of coffee while reading the news, but I will read it on my tablet not a real newspaper. It won’t be the same, but I’ll get used to it.

And on the bright side, I won’t have to wash the ink off my fingers afterward.