LOS ANGELES—In early February the paper of record in Los Angeles lopped an inch from the width of the newspapers. Talk about sneaky downsizing. I would have gone on reading Donald Sterling’s real estate rag forever, none the wiser, were it not for the hawk eyes of my ex-wife, who observed the format change. It just so happens that I had kept in a safe deposit box a vintage edition of the Times from September 16, 2008, for comparison purposes, just in case such an eventuality was foisted off on the innocent reading public.
So there it has been moldering and aging, like a fine Bordeaux. When the old newspaper was held against the new newspaper, to my dismay, it confirmed that a full inch had been trimmed from the paper’s width. A glance at the 2-year-old newspaper also suggested that the newspaper could foist off a lot more change on a passive reading public. It could be delivering old newspapers, completely eliminate the staff and international bureaus to the glee of shareholders and the reading public could be just as entertained and enlightened.
—The big headline on September 16, 2008 is: “Wall Street braces for more.” It doesn’t say more of what, but there will be more where that came from, and it can be certain that Wall Street, as we speak, is bracing for more of it. Wall Street of course remains breaking news. And with timely, or rather timeless, news like this why shell out for a paper subscription?
—There is the obligatory front-page photograph of debris and destruction from a catastrophe. Does it matter that it is natural or man-made, is it Chile or the aftermath of my brother-in-law’s bachelor party? You still get your daily allowance of havoc and the touchy feely human interest angle of a man looking for a neighbor’s lost pet.
—“Iraq forces still need help, U.S. officials warn,” is a story that graces the interior pages of this newspaper. It could certainly be plucked from today’s headlines; thus, bolstering my thesis that newspapers are unnecessary.
—“Lawmakers begin vote on budget” appears in the California news, surely a story for all seasons in a land reputed to have no seasons.
—In sports a headline reads, “Dodgers outfielder has his first home run in nearly two years.” Robespierre. And I opened yesterday’s paper and, whoah, there’s a story about Robespierre, er, or Juan Pierre. (You can see I’m not a big fan of major league football.)
—In culture news, Philip Roth’s latest novel got panned in a back-handed way. He received one of those labels of qualified praise, “America’s greatest living novelists,” and the book was termed an “engaging mistake.” I bet Roth was sore, “Look Ma, we scribes slave at the keyboard till the skin wears off our knuckles, “and that’s the best I get, ”˜America’s greatestliving novelist.’ There’s simply the greatest. Nobody ever called Mohammed Ali America’s greatest living boxer.”
—In the old crime news, it’s business as usual: “Husband allegedly plotted slaying.” Murders are called slayings and marriages create strife, relieved by the occasional murder. In the September 16, 2008, edition of the Times, you find out that a bull was also plotting a murder when you read, “Dairyman’s death stuns agriculture students.” This is one of those unique stories that hit the newsprint once in a blue moon.
And that’s why I’m hooked on the newspaper however pathetically downsized it may be. However much hassle it may be to pick through the morass of the Sunday circulars to find the comics. However many editions go straight from the porch to the circular file, unread.
This reader is going to keep up his subscription. The daily newspaper is a priceless commodity, like the air we breathe and the water we filter. At the very least, it is an amazing thing to polish glass and mirrors.
Grady Miller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org