Newspapers are powerful sources of news, information, entertainment, learning, social gathering, event planning … I can easily keep going ad infinitum.
I have learned from newspapers, have laughed from newspapers, have cried from newspapers and grew up with and made a career out of newspapers.
Other than my mom and dad, wife, kids and family, newspapers have been the most critical part of my life. And it started at a young age.
When I was about 4 years old, my earliest recollection of the example I am about to give, I would get up before anyone else in the house on a Sunday morning and wait for the newspaper to be delivered. As soon as it arrived, I would take it into the kitchen where my grandmother — who lived with us — would have anticipated my being up and was making herself some coffee. I would jump up into a dining room chair, slide myself toward the table and unroll the newspaper. Usually on top of the stack of pages and sections in those days were the Sunday funnies. Mo — that’s what I called my grandma — and I would start with Blondie and Dagwood and read every strip and panel in the section. At 4, I could barely sound out the words Mo was reading. But when she came across a word I knew or could handle, she would hold her finger on it until I read it. To this day, I still get a thrill and a little teared up when I think about Mo teaching me to read with the comics. Each Sunday was the high point of my days.
As I grew older, I would spend time with my dad or my Uncle Ray looking over the newspaper sports pages. What fascinated me the most was the box scores, which appear in the section we call “Scoreboard” today in the News-Argus. The box scores offer a plethora of information from league standings to league leaders, game and match results, schedules, history, what’s on radio and TV, and so much more. I liked checking the percentages of games won by a professional team to understand why teams were in first, second, third, etc. In fourth grade, my teacher called me “Einstein” as I was the only one in class who could solve percentages. “Where did you learn to do it?” she asked once. The newspaper sports pages, I told her. She didn’t believe me. But that was OK, even at 9, I liked the idea of having a bit of mystery surrounding me.
By 11, I was delivering newspapers to people’s homes and generating a pretty good income for a pre-teen. I carried a morning and an afternoon daily and what we called the weekly green sheet on Wednesdays. For a while, I had two routes for each newspaper. The money was good. But I had little time for much else. So, I cut back to one route per paper. With my paper routes, I learned responsibility, customer service, how to handle money, salesmanship and dependability. I also learned about business management. Since paper routes were hard for some kids to get, I would free up my summers by “subcontracting” out my routes and take only a 10 percent fee from the kids carrying my papers from June to September.
When I think about it now, I learned more about life and growing up from newspapers than from any other single source. Sure, my teachers taught me more advanced aspects of reading, writing and arithmetic, and my mom and dad taught me how to make friends and stand by those friendships during thick or thin. I can’t help but believe, though, that newspapers were at the foundation of all my learning. I didn’t have a desktop computer. I didn’t have an iPad, a smartphone nor advancement placement classes in school. I didn’t have 500 channels on cable TV, just three networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. And I didn’t have social media unless you count the playground, sandlot or convenience store parking lot where I hung out with my friends, real friends not virtual ones.
Nope, all I had was the newspaper. Quite frankly, it’s all I needed. It may sound self-serving coming from a newspaper editor, but before you invest in the next iPad or computer for your children or grandchildren, buy them a subscription to the News-Argus. Other than all the benefits of the newspaper I have noted, the best one of all is that you all can read the newspaper together.