November 2009

Make mine pulp, please

By David Feela

On the B-Lazy Ranch, the paperboy — still wearing his pajamas — boots up his computer and attaches his neighborhood route subscribers with a special command, then he pushes a button and crawls back into bed. Even before he has fallen asleep, the newest edition of the e-news has been delivered to a couple hundred virtual doorsteps.

As a naive teenager in the late 1960s, that’s how I’d have imagined a futuristic America, one where any work required of me would would demand less physical exertion. And maybe today’s electronic world is more efficient, though I’m disappointed that paperboys are becoming obsolete along with the newspapers they used to deliver, so quickly turning into artifacts.

Back then I’d set my alarm to wake before sunrise, dress in warm clothes, then load my bicycle baskets with news so fresh my hands would be black with the ink of a hundred headlines. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I still don’t have to deliver newspapers for a living, but I’m saddened by the gradual demise of the news in its print form, especially on Sundays when the headlines possessed such an undeniable weight.

As the economy forces us to believe that dollars make the only sense, it’s easy to see why traditional newspapers are folding in record numbers. Good, solid research as a prerequisite for journalism costs money, and it takes time. And isn’t it kind of arrogant to believe the entire world’s population should be plugged into the electronic age? In terms of resources, sure, it appears like an ecological no-brainer to reduce the news to a tweet and a twitter, but have you ever tried to complete a crossword puzzle on your iPhone or been forced to drape a laptop over the arm of your chair while you go for another cup of coffee? As with every new technology, they say change is inevitable, but somebody should also say, well, there’s good and there’s bad news. Which do you want to hear first?

Without newsprint the British will have nothing to wrap their fish and chips. The homeless will be colder. An inordinate number of dogs may be injured when their owners try to discipline them with rolled-up keyboards.

Of course, there’s also good news, because newspapers are, by their very nature, wireless, and you’ll never have to wait for newspaper ads to finishing loading before you’re allowed to read the next page. I’m all for change but “All the news that’s fit to blog” will never catch on, because, frankly, it just sounds stupid.

So you see, there’s nothing old-fashioned about picking up a newspaper. They’re mostly recyclable, and if the power goes out, you can always start a fire with yesterday’s news. Try doing that with your laptop.

David Feela writes from rural Montezuma County, Colo.