Object of Attention: Print Newspapers

Newspapers have turned into such shrunken, sad things. I’m old enough to remember when the local paper was a proud, confident publication, full color, a blaze of glory against the glass. Now, the old vending machines look like a child’s mouth with a small tooth growing in. It’s hard to look at them.

When I was a homeschooled kid, someone finagled an invitation to the local newspaper office, a boxy building on the edge of town surrounded by tired looked trees. The whole homeschool group went on the field trip. There were around thirty of us kids, in denim jumpers and polo shirts ironed crisp, and boy, were we excited to see real reporters.

As it turned out, the newspaper office was a place lit by fluorescent lights that smelled of coffee and cheap carpet. Reporters turned out to be people who hunched on pastel-colored office chairs and typed at boxy computers. They didn’t even turn to look at us. One harried women showed our group around, nudging us through doors and hurrying us through the damp smelling galley where they printed the papers.

During question and answer time, a dutiful parent asked how a kid might grow up to be a reporter at the paper. The woman started to say something, then stopped. After a few seconds of thought, she said, carefully, “It’s…hard to make a living in the newspaper world these days.”

The next week, we went on a field trip to a jail and that was more interesting. There were ominous looking signs and big red buttons that called the police. Incarcerated men pressed their faces against the glass pane that separated them from the lobby. One grinned at me. He was missing a canine tooth. “How funny,” I thought, “He looks happier than the newspaper woman.”

(originally posted on Instagram:@bynellesmith)

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