Dick Platt

Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist.

I read somewhere there are three things in life that, once gone, never come back — time, words, and opportunity. I personally think a fourth item should be added to that list, “tradition.” Some of Daniel’s definitions for this word that fit my purposes are, “…a long-established custom or practice … any of the usages of a school of art or literature handed down through the generations … to hand down as a tradition…”

My intention here is to lament the phasing out of a great American tradition — the daily newspaper. All across the country, hometown newspapers are cutting back, merging, or fading into the sunset. And the big metropolitan newspapers have felt the pinch also. Before we left Denver, I was saddened by the fact that the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News had to merge to stay afloat. I just heard on the news last week that Portland, Maine may be the first large American city to lose its only newspaper because the Portland Press Herald is close to going belly-up.

Circulation trends in this country have been steadily coming down over the last decade. In 1996, newspaper circulation was about 57.0 million daily and 60.8 million on Sundays. By 2006, circulation had fallen to about 52.3 million daily and 53.2 million on Sundays. This disturbing trend is exacerbated by the fact our population increased by about 54 million folks during this period.

My last “wow, I didn’t know that” statistic is that while newspaper circulation is trending down in this country, it is growing in emerging Asian countries like China and India. In 2006, Asia accounted for 35 percent of the world’s newsprint usage, North America 25 percent, and Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Latin America all had five percent each.

Sad to say, we now have whole generations growing up without a newspaper in the house because of an absolute dependency on television and the almighty computer. Many folks switch off the news broadcasts as if they were annoying commercials between the soaps, game shows, talk shows, celebrity gossip shows, and reality shows. My generation always started the day with a cup of coffee and the morning paper. These folks get up, open up their laptops, take the cell phone off the charger, and have a latte on the way to work.

In case you haven’t noticed, let me repeat — I hate computers and computers hate me. I take it very personally when my computer tells me that I made a “bad” or “invalid” command. It infuriates me that my computer will say “couldn’t find printer” when I purposely put the printer right alongside it. Now I admit, my enmity toward my computer is due to my absolute lack of technical knowledge. I have never even downloaded a file to a disc and I use the CD-ROM load drawer as a cup holder. Until recently, I thought the term “micro chip” referred to the stuff at the bottom of the potato chip bag. However, I like to use computer analogies like referring to my wife as a “hard-disc” woman because she remembers everything—forever!

Some folks will say newspapers are an unnecessary expense but things like manicures, pedicures, tanning sessions, and video games are necessities. Not us! The papers are so important to us that I list the subscription payments for the Dallas Morning News and the Corsicana Daily Sun as “Utilities” in the Platt family budget.

My wife and I both avidly pore over the national, metropolitan, and local news and compare it with the snippets we get from the “fair and balanced” reports on TV. The sports sections are a must and we both have our favorite comic strips which we follow faithfully. I can even tell you how Doonsbury is covering the political conventions and Garfield is handling his weight problem. A day without doing my crossword puzzles from the Dallas and Corsicana papers is like a day without sunshine. The New York Times puzzle is challenging at times, especially the huge one on Sundays. I do the Corsicana puzzle in pen just to show off. I know, “Get a life, Platt!”

Like all newspapers around the country, the Corsicana Daily Sun has a home page which is well laid out and has a great picture of me under the “Opinion” page archives. I don’t have any circulation statistics but I suspect this Web site, and others like it, may be a self-inflicted wounds. I say this because I have people telling me all the time that they read my stuff every week on the computer rather than in hard copy. I suppose they line their bird cages with computer paper these days too.

I’ll close with some more real-life newspaper headlines which seem to add to the uniqueness and mystique of this type of media and give editors fits.

Queen Mary having bottom scraped

Two convicts evade noose, jury hung

Autos killing 110 a day, let’s resolve to do better

Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn’t seen in years

Sun and rain expected today, dark tonight

See ya later …

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Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Thursdays.

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