Sunday, May 02, 2010

May 2, 2010
I love reading newspapers and magazines. They are very tactile and, of course, they are printed on paper. I make a good living from this process and, so, naturally, I am a supporter.

For the past two weeks my newspaper carrier has been delivering our Arizona Republic (and on Sunday The New York Times) later and later. One day last week it never came and I went to work without reading the paper. This was very irritating to me. I thought about calling the Republic's 800 number but decided against it because it would take a half hour and on a previous attempt I got caught in phone hell ("If you'd like to extend your subscription, but have a validated credit card, press three").

As I mentioned the other day I have a morning ritual which includes going out to the end of the driveway to get the newspaper, after I've put four pieces of whole wheat toast in the toaster. For many years, the paper(s), like clockwork, have been there at 5:30. But for the past two weeks it has been 7:30 and later.

Today, I got up at six. I was excited because my Nazi Westerns True West Moment was running in the Valley & State section of the Republic and I wanted to see how it came out (I'm so much more shallow than I let on). I walked to the end of the driveway and it wasn't there. I went back in and finished my ten minutes of drawings, fed the chickens, took my pills, checked my email, finished a Time magazine, read a long piece in the New Yorker about a murder trial and was on my walk with Peaches when I saw a battered van coming down our remote road. I watched it go by, then saw someone throw a paper out the window and although I hadn't seen this van before, I knew the deal. It was 9:40 in the morning. I kept walking but slowed down to wait for them to come back up the road (we live on a dead end). Flagging them down, I walked up to the window and said, "May I ask why the paper is so late?"

Two people were inside. A driver, a guy about my age with a dirty white t-shirt was driving. The carrier, a woman who I recognized had on a biker cap and was smoking a cigarette. From the driver, I got a defensive "We didn't get the paper until three."

Okay. That was over six hours ago, and. . .

The carrier gives me this deadpan look: "We had to wrap 400 papers with an extra section, but you'll be happy to know it's real thick."

Like this would make up for the paper being four hours late. I also got a song and dance about car trouble. I let it slide. They motored on.

It's hard to be mad at them, no doubt they make minimum wage, or something close, but the fact remains they are the vulnerable edge of the ancient delivery system newspapers exist on. I wondered if the editors at the paper had a clue how close they were to losing another subscription? Virtually all of the news from the Republic is online, for free.

A tipping point reached? Not yet, but I realize I'm headed in that direction. I saw my first iPad in Laughlin a couple weeks ago and the access to papers is great. My kids are already there and virtually all of the young people who work for me can't remember the last time they bought or read a newspaper. I walked back and got the two papers and took them in the kitchen. I was in a bad mood. But then I got a good laugh.

Ironically, this quote was in the New York Times:

"Younger people don't want to touch a piece of paper. They want to do it all electronically."
—Wayne Abernathy, of the American Bankers Association, describing how kids today don't want to write checks, or even use cash. They want to pay for everything with their cell phones.

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