The experience of sharing a physical newspaper
The article below just triggered an enormous wave of nostalgia. I think the last time I handled a physical newspaper was when a friend brought me a copy of the NY Times the day after President Obama’s historic election.
Until just now, I hadn’t really considered what a different experience it is to read the news online. For all the instantaneous whiz-bang interactivity of it, it’s lacking tactility: Missing is the walk outside into the quiet, cool early morning air; the dew clinging to the protective plastic bag; the distinctive, freshly printed scent that wafts up when you unfold the paper, spreading the pages and snapping them into position; the soft rustling of turning those pages; the ink on my fingers, sharing one of the sections with someone…there is none of that online.
I know reading my favorite newspapers online helps save trees, provides more variety, and probably has other benefits I haven’t considered, yet still… Perhaps I’m being overly sentimental—it wouldn’t be the first time—but it makes me feel like I’ve lost something which, if not of great import, was at least unique, tangible, more human. Yes, I that’s it—I feel a little bit poorer. I should correct that.
We’ve moved into a new house and now have a table big enough for two people to read a newspaper at the same time. So we should use it.
Plus a certain very large newspaper has just instituted a digital subscription. For the first time in nearly a decade, I’m getting a physical newspaper. Not just on Sundays. Every day.
Having the newspaper object makes me appreciate it as an assemblage of writing in which, on any given day, there are good sentences and not so good sentences and sentences there to do a certain job. Often it’s the look of the line that catches my eye because it promises a certain stylistic approach, so I read the story. This doesn’t happen online.
Right off the bat, I’m appreciating the paper as an artifact of human craft. Who, in the age of web pages, still needs to carve out enough column inches on a second page to contain a story’s spillover from the first? Someone, apparently. I appreciate their good work every morning over coffee.
One problem is, there are two readers and one newspaper, and sharing sections of the daily newspaper doesn’t work as well. Get two paper versions?
A photo of a traffic jam in China. My son, standing on a chair by the table, is pointing at the front of a vehicle. “Wi-pah,” he says, “wi-pah.” Good, I think. It’s working.