Was I too quick to cancel my print subscription?

Digital news is pre-packaged for speed and convenience – electronic snippets parsed out in ceaseless, rapid-fire raids. Print newspapers open up a panoramic view of the big picture, which we can sample and savor at our own rate of speed.

Recently, while waiting to have my oil changed, I picked up the day’s discarded newspaper. I didn’t slide my finger across the smooth, sexy surface of a pint-sized iPhone or Blackberry to access the latest news, or look up at the wall-mounted television that was blaring CNN headlines. I picked the news up and held it in my hands. In fact, it took both hands to hold it upright.

The musty aroma of ink-stained newsprint rose up to greet me like a long forgotten friend I didn’t realize I missed. No beeps and blares and “Breaking News.” Just the faint soft, crackling rustle of the world inviting me to have a look at what it’s been up to.

Unexpectedly, a welcomed wave of soothing nostalgia swept over me. Like the growing legion of digital disciples, I canceled my daily print newspaper subscription several years ago and after squelching a few early withdrawal symptoms, never looked back.

Easing into one of the waiting room’s worn, burgundy vinyl chairs, I began slowly turning pages, feeling strangely safe and in control of all that was happening around me. Accustomed to getting my news in electronic snippets parsed out in ceaseless, rapid-fire raids, I began to glimpse the reassuring illusion that I was the gatekeeper. I held the world and all of its stories in my hands. And I could sample and savor at my own rate of speed. Or not.

Peephole vs. full pictures

Somewhere along the way, my broader curiosity had been hijacked, and I came to rely on news that’s sifted and sorted into select fragments for my viewing and listening pleasure. News on the run. Instant. Microwaved. Drive-thru news. Pre-packaged for speed and convenience. Without much thought about the rest of the story on the cutting room floor.

Opening up the print version of the news opens up a panoramic view of the big picture. At a glance, I can scan a smorgasbord of full-length stories, photos, sketches, and graphs, and leisurely choose where I want to delve deeper – a refreshing relief from news channel television screens crammed with headlines, news crawls, alerts, and graphics. And of course, I can Google and surf and scroll and link my way through digital news, but this is often like looking at the world through a peephole, instead of a double-page spread the size of a kitchen window.

I had forgotten.

What print gives us

I had also forgotten comic strips and am guessing that the last Peanuts cartoon I read was several years ago when the final newspaper was delivered to my front door. I had forgotten the Hocus Pocus challenge where I can never resist the temptation to find six differences between the two pictures. And I had forgotten obituaries.

Whether I choose to linger or ignore, the obituaries are an unavoidable pause when flipping through the pages – flash frozen faces smiling girlishly from long ago, or somber military looks of once-young men. They are mostly bare-boned statistics that leave me figuring which departed faces are near my age and briefly pondering my own mortality before I turn the page.

And then there are the practical reasons to yearn for the print version of the news. What do you grab to cover your head when caught in an unexpected rainstorm? What do you spread out on the kitchen table when you round up the kids for a craft project? What do you use when housebreaking the new puppy? What do you cut out and put on the refrigerator when you get your name in the paper? What about packing dishes on moving day? Birdcage liners? No digital solutions for these quandaries.

In spite of wistful musings about the inevitable demise of the print version of the daily newspaper, I confess that I probably do prefer the faster, more efficient electronic snapshot of what’s going on in my world. But I still sometimes long for lazy Sunday afternoons with the plump, juicy Sunday paper spread out on the floor before me and the time to meander my way through it. There are times when I wonder if maybe I was too quick to cancel my print subscription.

Lynn Pinkerton is a freelance writer who lives in Houston, Texas. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and on-line publications, as well as several anthologies.

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