The daily newspaper has been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. My earliest newspaper memories are of my father, sitting in his chair after dinner, with the evening paper unfolded in front of him. The paper was so big that all you could see of him were his legs and hands. I can still hear the rustle of the pages being turned and the sense of security I felt being a part, though only observant, of that daily routine.
As the years past, I would join the many boys and girls, in cities and states just like mine, who had paper routes. I grew up in Port Huron, Michigan and my first paper route was delivering the Detroit Free Press, a daily paper published each morning. Papers were supposed to be on subscribers porches by 7am, Monday through Friday, rain or shine. I remember that I had about 65 customers and on Saturday mornings I would work the route after delivery and collect paper money from most of my customers. We would then ride our bikes into town to pay our bill and hit the bowling alley before heading home and the chores that were always waiting to be done.
Paper routes were hard to come by and only became available when someone would move away or grow to old for the job. The best routes were those right around your house. After several months of delivering the Free Press, I was asked to take the Sunday Detroit News route. This paper was the size of the New York Times and took several trips to deliver since it was so heavy and only so many papers could be stuffed into the paper bags situated on each hip. The way it worked back then was the comics, the weekly magazine and the ads would be delivered on Saturday while I collected money. Since it was a kinder and simpler time, most people fit this into their routine and would be there with their money when you knocked on the front door. What they did the rest of the day I can only imagine but what I do remember is that the paper was a very important part of peoples lives during this period of time. All you had to do was miss them once to find out—they were not happy campers.
Many years and several roads traveled later, I would end up working three and a half years for a twice weekly newspaper as a reporter and ad salesman. This was long before the internet and I read at least two newspapers everyday in order to localize some of the stories that affected my small part of North Carolina.
I was still working at the Jefferson Times when the mac-paper USA Today was introduced to the American public and distributed in paper machines that looked a lot like a television. They were the first to take long in-depth stories and condense them for a broad public consumption—a public looking for sound-bites and cut-to-the-chase reporting.
I have said all this just to lay a foundation for what I am about to say about the end of an era.
Last Friday I stopped by our local Food Lion with four quarters in my pocket intending to buy a USA Today. This is a paper that I have read almost every weekday for the past 20 years and for the past several years has cost me $5 a week—a price I could easily justify based on my love of print.
Much to my surprise, my four quarters would only cover half of the now two dollar price tag for my morning paper. And in that moment, I saw the end of an era—an era that I have been a part of both mentally and physically. Suffice it to say, my world changed in front of that paper box outside of my local Food Lion store. Ten dollars a week is a lot of money and no doubt will be used to pay my cell phone bill or my insurance premium or heaven knows what.
It was a sad Friday, but perhaps the time spent doing other things instead of browsing the daily paper will lead to my first book being written or learning to play another musical instrument or numerous other activities that I can only imagine at this very moment.
Or, as “they” say: when one door closes there is always another one opening. Hopefully I will be attentive and alert and not look back to often to what I once had. It’s been a good long ride and I am looking forward to what new roads will open up in front of me.