Before the Internet, newspapers connected people

Before the Internet, social media and cable television, the daily newspaper connected residents and neighbors to each other through stories, pictures and published events.

My grandparents lived in the same house, on the same piece of land, in the same hollow, in the same county for decades. The daily newspaper was fundamental for them.

Papaw Russ treasured the local newspaper. Every day after he returned home from work, he drank a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. Engrossing himself in the news, he didn’t speak until he had perused every page.

Nobody could read the newspaper until he was finished, because he wanted the pages to be in order. I would patiently wait to read the cartoons and comic strips. And the Saturday newspaper seemed extra special because the comics came in vibrant colors instead of black and white ink. “Shazam!” is what Gomer Pyle would say on his television show when gleefully surprised.

As a child, I was amazed that a rolled up paper could be unfolded into a large paper with multiple pages. And I liked the feel of the thin paper on my fingertips, and the crinkly sound as the pages turned.

Mamaw Hila cut out any pictures or stories about people she knew and saved the newspaper clippings until they yellowed with age. Due to her upbringing in the hills of Appalachia, she reused almost everything. The older newspapers were used to line the bottom of her birdcages or cellar shelves or to wrap vegetables from the garden to give to neighbors.

After Papaw Russ retired from the steel mill, he continued his newspaper routine. After a cup of coffee, he would set outside on the porch around 4 p.m. daily and wait for the carrier to deliver his paper connection to county happenings: Marriage licenses, birth notices, deaths in the obituary section and graduation announcements. During the summers, he liked to read about the events at the county fair. I liked to look at the pictures of winning 4-H projects.

P. T. Barnum declared, “He who is without a newspaper, is cut off from his species.”

When I visited their home as an adult, the day’s newspaper would be on the kitchen table and the week’s newspapers would be stacked in a pile on the counter. Mamaw Hila would ask, “Do you want to read the paper?” I would respond, “Yes, I sure do.”

After Papaw Russ passed away, Mamaw Hila continued to receive the local newspaper. It was like a part of their family.

The invention of modern technological devices has replaced newspapers for much of the younger crowd. They utilize Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, podcasts, Aapps and Internet websites for their information.

While change is necessary, it is also scary. But some things, like local newspapers, need to remain intact.

Michael Connelly lamented, “A newspaper is the center of a community, it’s one of the tent poles of the community and that’s not going to be replaced by websites and blogs.” I agree.

What does a newspaper need?

“What a newspaper needs in its news, in its headlines, and on its editorial page is terseness, humor, descriptive power, satire, originality, good literary style, clever condensation and accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!” declared Joseph Pulitzer.

How do residents show support for their local newspaper?

Subscriptions for newspapers in print have declined, but I guess the online edition saves trees. Kathleen McLaughlin, a journalist for The Guardian responded, “So what can you do? The simple solution lies with you, dear reader. Find a news outlet valuable to your life and pay for it. Plain and simple. It’s not a long-term solution, but we need people to stop expecting the news be the same as air and sunlight – absolutely free.”

I still like to read paper copies of newspapers. I still like to feel the thin paper on my fingertips and listen to the crinkly sound as the pages turn. And I encourage readers to support their local newspaper.