If We’re Not Reading Newspapers, What Are We Reading?


Irony. It can be rich, yes, but also cruel and sometimes funny.

A year ago, exasperated by adult newspaper delivery employees who never seemed to deliver a paper by the proscribed time (that would be “my breakfast”), I canceled my beloved subscription to the beloved paper-and-ink morning news in favor of a much more antiseptic online-only version.

Some months later, a new delivery man was hired. Now, as I walk the dog at outlandishly-appropriate (for newspaper-delivery people) hours (that’s 4 to 5 A.M. to you), I watch as headlights drift by and my neighbor’s plastic-cocooned newspaper flies out a car window onto his driveway.

Sigh. Sometimes you lose, and sometimes you lose.

On this morning’s walk, a different thought, however. A more alarming one. At age 12, I delivered The Hartford Courant, an early morning paper, and damn near every house on ┬áthe three streets of my route subscribed. Those who didn’t? They were outliers, eccentrics, or illiterates.

This morning, after hurling a paper on my neighbor’s macadam, the deliveryman drove his car the entire length of my street without so much as a second newspaper toss. The dramatic difference between my reading neighborhood as a kid and my non-reading neighborhood as an adult was depressing, to say the least.

Yes. I hear you. You’re saying most of these good neighbors are probably like me, reading online Boston Globes and New York Times and Wall Street Journals. And I’ll grant you five neighbors tops that you’re right. But only five.

Beyond that, my spidey sense tells me that most of them are not reading at all. Or, worse, that they’re getting their news in biased dollops of cable television “news.” Or, worse than that, that they’re merely picking up maligned bits and pieces from Facebook and Twitter feeds. Or, worse than all those things rolled into one, that they’re just reading texts on their binkies (read: cellphones).

As they say in Paraguay: Aye, Dios. The contrast was too much for me. As it was a beautifully-cool spring morning, I focused on the chirping sparrows, the cardinals, and the catbirds calling in the wood.

The news there was much more promising.