Russell Smith is a newspaper junkie and will defend them to the death. Well, Russell, despite agreeing in principle with a significant portion of what you’re saying, it was nice knowing you. I’ll plant a tree that won’t get cut down on your grave.
I love newspapers. I love the dry wit of newspaper people. I love the size and portability and recyclability of a paper product. The ritual of the morning paper creates the most focused, and perhaps pleasant moments of the day.
The security of the kitchen table, the morning light, a bit of baroque guitar, a hot coffee give me, for some reason, a sudden and deep concentration that I am unable to recreate for the rest of the day. Perhaps it’s because of that moment’s proximity to sleep. Perhaps it’s because a sheet of newsprint is so static, so stable, so unflashy: It does not distract me with links to brighter, sexier images, or to the gossipy and stressful world of e-mail, as reading on my computer does.
But it works in a coffee shop at lunch, too, or at a bar at the end of the day. I can sit by a window, look at the street, pick up that smudgy sheet and focus intensely on something like tax laws, and then look back at the street; it’s an invariably intense moment of connection to what’s going on around me.
There is something about that conjunction of pleasures, of the coffee, the view, the city, the sense of being among people that is conducive, for me, to thinking and understanding.
And now everyone is telling me, everyone believes, that this pleasure is coming to an end. We have all read the statistics and know the long list of American papers that have disappeared or are about to disappear.