Guest Columnist - John Ropa
Posted: November 27, 2009
Fifteen inches of snow can cause a lot of inconvenience in the Upper Midwest, with school closings, stuck cars and traffic jams to name a few. More importantly, for only the second time in three years, the Telegraph Herald (TH) was not at my driveway when I awakened one time last winter.
At first, I wasn't immediately disappointed because the morning TH is my afternoon newspaper. That's because when we moved to Elizabeth,IL, in 1998, I asked the TH if they delivered all the way out in the country. They said "yes", though they did not point out that the paper was to be delivered via the U.S. Postal Service, who, in turn, delivered it with the mail in the afternoon. Hence, the morning TH became our afternoon paper and has been for 10 years.
Since I could not get out of my driveway one day last February, the crisis became real because I also had to go without a Chicago Tribune, which is my favorite morning and lunchtime paper.
As a transplant in northwestern Illinois, I still read The Trib every day to retain contact with my old neigbhorhoods. I even occasionally listen to Chicago radio stations just to hear about the traffic jams that I am no longer a part of. I smile when I encounter slow-moving farm machinery, because I know that it will turn off the highway much sooner than the one-hour trip from the Kennedy junction to downtown.
For newspaper junnkies, the absence of current reading material is traumatic. The newspaper has been my babysitter, my education and my diversion. As a boy, I learned how to read by keeping track of the Allies as they moved across Europe after the invasion of Normandy. If the paper did not show up on time, I was afraid we'd lost the war.
Each morning, I read sections two, three and four, saving the front page of The Trib for lunchtime. I figured that The Trib was about four hours behind the local paper when it comes to news, so I don't sacrifice any timeliness by saving the latter for supper time. Now, faced with the excruciating pain of going a whole day without a newspaper, I searched for an alternative to fill my time.
Obviously, there are many alternatives to newspapers, which does not please owners of daily periodicals. There are news stations on TV, constantly blaring about something or the other. They even stage arguments among guests and commentators as though the news isn't the news unless you argue about it. And sure, the TH is online, as is The Trib. And I can get by, barely, by spending a lot of time double-clicking and dodging pop-up ads.
But, even as professional as the web sites are, they provide nothing that compares to the tactile experience of turning a page of a real paper, hearing the rustle of the pages and searching for the continued story until I make my way to that page.
Finally, there is no way that the TV or the computer will ever replace the need for a newspaper. After all, you can't train a puppy with a high-definition monitor and you can't swat a fly with a rolled-up keyboard.