Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Woven newsprint

Picking up a newspaper often brings thoughts of my Granddad. He worked in the newspaper business over 4 decades to provide for his family, develop his own interests, stay in touch with the world, and build other relationships where he could. Life with Granddad was a journalistic activity. The arrival of Time Magazine and a copy of the afternoon Seattle Times were equally revered and used more than a Bible or prayer book in his household. We read, discussed, dissected and critiqued the stories of the day.

What would Granddad think of print media today? He would never tolerate media bashing in conversations. I remember calling some newspaper a "local rag," a term I had heard living in the Midwest (though not indigenous to the region), and I was confronted about my blasphemous remark. My Granddad worked with numerous small daily and weekly newspapers--though they varied in quality and professionalism, each newspaper represented an ideal of connecting people in a community with information. He upheld the journalistic vocation as a foundation of a free society in and through his life and work. Art Thiel of the Seattle P-I reminded me in a recent column of this Constitutional notion as he lamented the consquences of Seattle being a one- or zero-newspaper city.

Granddad was not alive long enough to grasp the scope of the Internet, but I think he saw the beginning of a colossal shift in journalism, only he didn't name it at the time. As I love journalism myself, I made my own attempts to pursue the vocation over a few decades, and have often tried to grasp what was happening in journalism. I think about the macro- and micro- level discussions about the field we had over the years. Though we were never big fans of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (we were a Times family), the idea that the P-I and newspapers all over the country have changed glacially in a media tsunami would be a part of numerous discussions for us if he were alive today. I picked up my own local newspaper Sunday and rubbed in like a Roman Catholic using beads while praying the Rosary. In that newspaper was a tactile reminder of many days of discussing what was going on in the world and in our lives with my Granddad. I am like many other media consumers these days--I do not subscribe to my local newspaper. I buy one on Sundays at a local outlet for the coupons--we're trying to be frugal. I read several newspapers online, some more than others. I have 6 on my bookmark page. The state of the newspaper business is one of the many things about which I miss talking with Granddad--but this topic is one of the most poignant topics of our shared lives. Journalism represents decades of passion and vocational pursuits for each of us, not to mention flesh and bone for our lives. And as our bodies change and all things change, so too has journalism changed. I am at peace with that notion--I only wish Granddad and I could talk about it.

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