I am not a real newspaper man but I play one on this page. Yet I have been associated with newspapers from my earliest years on the planet. At age 10 I hawked newspapers on street corners like those irrepressible kids in 1930s B movies. A paper route provided me with the working capital that paved the way toward financial independence.
I have an early memory of my father taking me to a coffee shop in downtown Buffalo, N.Y., where an entire newspaper was pinned to a corkboard. Patrons stood at high counters reading the paper. They moved to another station to read a different section of the paper while they sipped their morning brew and engaged in dark-roasted conversations with their cronies.
My cousin, Phil Ranallo, a sports writer and columnist for the Buffalo Courier Express, was inducted into the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. My older brother, Don, wrote for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. So you might say ink flows through my veins.
I write this bemoaning a frightening decline in newspaper readership. The same technology offering new and faster means of communication that threatens our postal service is threatening all print media, too. This is not a rant urging readers to shy away from the latest means of disseminating information. I think seniors who don’t get involved with the Internet, email, and social networks such as Facebook are missing out. Since I have tens of nieces and nephews scattered across the country, I use their postings on Facebook as I would use magnets to post pictures and notes on my refrigerator. Through Facebook I’ve met their spouses and children and have been kept up to date on significant events in their lives. I watched my granddaughter take her first steps on YouTube the very day she began walking.
It may be easier for mature persons to see the benefits of new technology than it is for younger people to recognize the value of what it is replacing. I like the speed and simplicity of email, but the first piece of snail mail I open is the one with the handwritten address on the envelope. It is a clear indication of an investment of time — sealed with effort, consideration and personal involvement. Texting is fine, but hearing your voice on the other end of the line is priceless.
It’s been said that if all we had were electronic means of communication and suddenly someone invented the printed page, people would go mad for this new tactile, wireless, portable, data retrieval system that doesn’t require a two-year contract and monthly fees that are more than our house payments used to be.
A newspaper is a short textbook of history (often our own history) updated every day. Members of the community express their opinions in signed letters to the editor, not through anonymous blogs. News that appears in the paper is examined, scrutinized, inspected, checked, assessed, investigated and evaluated by a group of professionals who strive to be as honest and accurate as they can be.
It would be unfortunate for young people to miss out on such a meaningful means of obtaining information that can be vital to them. There is no doubt we should embrace new technology. Let’s not throw out something of value when we do.
Jerry Gervase is a columnist for The Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.