Does the daily newspaper still have a place at home?

One family goes for more than a week without their daily newspaper. In that time, they re-kindle their love for print, as they come to miss everything from news headlines to the extensive household uses for an already-read newspaper. 

Yves Herman/Reuters/FILE
A large birdcage to line with old newspapers: Fischer's Lovebirds stand in a bird cage at Pairi Daiza, a zoo and botanical garden, in Brugelette, Belgium, on September 22, 2011.

As technology forces the decline of news print and many kids become more aware of news breaking on the social scene than information coming from traditional news sources, some parents may be left to wonder if we’ve paved newspaper paradise and put up an intellectual parking lot.

The value of having a newspaper delivered was the topic absorbing much of my family’s time over the past week, since I goofed in my subscription renewal efforts and left our household without a newspaper for nearly two weeks.

What I learned is that being without a newspaper drove my kids crazier than I expected.

I understand that my kids are in the print-news-seeking minority.

According to a Pew Research Center report from November 2013, “71% of those 18-29 cite the internet as a main news source.”

Another Pew report found from 2012 says that on an average day, 29 percent of young people were "newsless" meaning they did not get any news, from traditional platforms, mobile phones, or even social networks.

To try illuminate a path back from this self-imposed news blackout that so many kids seem to be wandering around in, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is promoting the first-ever "National News Engagement Day" on October 7, 2014.

Despite the fact that both my husband and I are in journalism, my husband as a design editor and myself as a writer, I have often wondered if our four sons would grow up to read printed pages with their own children someday.

I got my answer last week when my failure to renew resulted in us living in a newspaper desert for two weeks.

Normally we get both The Virginian-Pilot (the paper for which my husband works)  and The Christian Science Monitor Weekly print edition.

Our four sons have grown up with a variety of print newspapers available daily.

That has shifted slightly since our youngest, Quin, 10, has also become an online news hound.

However, it wasn’t until the newspapers stopped coming to our doorstep seven days a week that I learned how deeply attached they all are to the printed, paper, page.

“Uh, the paper’s not here AGAIN,” Quin said pointedly last week. “Should I be making a ‘Get Well’ card for our newspaper delivery person? Also, if the paper delivery person isn’t sick, then we need to call the police and report our papers are getting stolen.”

I explained the situation, handed him some cash and sent him to the local convenience store to remedy the situation for the day.

A few days later Avery, 15,  spoke-up about the continued absence of the newspaper and blamed it on Quin, whom he assumed was “hogging the paper.”

Again, I explained the situation, handed over cash (this time to Avery) asking him to pass the word to his brother Ian, 19, who was the only remaining son who could be affected since our eldest is away at college in Richmond.

Apparently, while the news made it to Ian, it did not get to his girlfriend, Monica, 19, who came into the kitchen over the weekend saying worriedly, “Ummm, I can’t seem to find the newspaper. It’s gone. Actually, there are no newspapers for this whole week. So that means Sodoku’s gone and the news...”

It was as if she’d gone to Willy Wonka’s factory, only to find out they were all out of chocolate.

I explained the situation and she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Can you even imagine if they stopped selling newspapers totally,” Monica said on her way out the room. “Pintrest would collapse!”

I stopped her to ask what she meant.

She directed me to Pinterest, where there are pages upon pages of art and craft projects relying on news print as the main ingredient.

“How would they even do pre-school,” posited Quin, who we’d dislodged from the computer. “You couldn’t make 90-percent of the art projects without newspapers.”

That’s when we decided to make a list of what we have come to rely on repurposed newspapers to do cheaply and immediately.

Here’s the list we made together of what we newsprint is used for beyond learning the news itself: as an umbrella when caught in rain; to stuff in wet shoes overnight to dry and deodorize; to stuff in hats to keep their shape; to wrap around candle bottoms so they'll fit holders tighter; as a drop cloth; to make a hat; to make a boat; to make a kite; to stuff under doors and in cracks to stop cold wind from coming in; to wallpaper for a doll house (my dad did that once); to craft paper chains; to cut out paper dolls; to spread out between garden rows to discourage weeds; to wrap green tomatoes to ripen; to line bottom of bird cage; to package breakables and of course, to wrap fresh fish.

Despite the growing list of household uses, my sons' love for reading the paper before it becomes cage liner has helped me to realize that there is still hope that our kids and future generations will continue to value the printed news as more than just a means to a crafting project end, but to getting a more tangible grasp on the issues they may face in life.

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