Newspapers still serve role

Published 10:19 am Thursday, September 29, 2016

“So, are you still writing for the paper?”

Whenever a friend or acquaintance poses that innocent-sounding question, it rubs me the wrong way.

Yes, besides being nationally syndicated since 2010, I’ve submitted a column to my hometown paper every single week for the past 15 years. Maybe I’m thin-skinned, but I invariably infer that the underlying message is, “I am somewhat interested in your musings, but I can’t be bothered to buy the paper, borrow the paper OR read it at the library.”

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Okay, maybe they DO read part of the paper but have an irrational fear of certain pages because of an urban legend. (“And in the morning light, there was Dear Abby’s hook on the car door handle!”)

Oct. 2-8 is National Newspaper Week, and I’d like to address an open letter to the people least likely to read it.

I’ve lost count of people grousing, “ There ain’t ever anything in the paper.”That may be true — if you have an unhealthily NARROW view of your community. Just because not every issue is focused on your kids, your street or your church, it doesn’t make the paper an irrelevant waste of ink.

It can be educational, entertaining and inspirational to learn about other people’s struggles, achievements, hobbies and pet peeves.

Twitter is faster than newspapers. Magazines and books have the luxury of going more in-depth. But a newspaper is unmatched for melding the virtues of timeliness and fact-checking. Paul Revere’s shouts of “The British are coming!” served their purpose, but declarations such as “The British are Brexiting” require more background, context and nuance.

Different newspapers have different resources, styles and political leanings; but that merely means you must find the one that works for you. Drifting through life and trying to absorb vital information through osmosis is not a plan.

Newspapers have a reputation to uphold (perhaps a founder who fought to end child labor) and more “skin in the game” than most sources.They can’t be as cavalier with the facts as Facebook meme-dispensers or anonymous loudmouth callers to sports radio shows.

Keeping abreast of the news can save you from awkward situations (“Sorry, I wouldn’t have asked about your lead-footed nephew if I had known he died in a car wreck three months ago”), surprise confrontations (“When did they pass a $500 fine for junk cars in the yard?”) and rude awakenings (“Nobody told ME there was a new telephone scam.”)

Your local newspaper can help you know before it’s too late that a new factory is taking applications (maybe your son can finally move out of your basement!), that your all-time favorite bluegrass artist is making a farewell appearance at the Elks Lodge, that a neighbor is offering a rare collectible only in the classifieds and not via Craigslist or that the election commission is holding a public meeting on major changes.

Clip this column to fortify your own commitment to journalism. Share it with a lapsed reader.

And remember this year’s National Newspaper Week theme: “Way To Know!”

Let’s not mention runner-up themes such as “Paper beats rock AND scissors, you bigots!” and “How did lining your birdcage with smartphones work out, smart guy?”

Uh oh. Someone dug up my own creepy submission of “Newspaper carriers: They know where you live.”

*Gulp* I am still writing for the paper, aren’t I?


Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page, “Tyree’s Tyrades.”