Dear diary: OMG! I met a very special lady today! Her name is Ruth, she’s 104 years young and she’s the person who still reads the newspaper! Never even seen the Internet, she said. Each morning, she spreads the newspaper out on her kitchen table and reads Dear Abby aloud to her parakeets. Then she scans the obits, the comics and the news before using the paper to wrap fish. I think I’m in love!”

Snark? You betcha. But is it accurate?

That far-off whistle is the Nope Train approaching Nopesville.

Whenever I think about people reading the actual paper, it’s Ruth I picture — someone from a different generation who refuses to give up the old ways even while everybody else does so with gusto. She probably uses a phone book, too, and paper maps. How quaint.

And why shouldn’t I think this way? Just because I actually work for a newspaper doesn’t mean I don’t hear your hurtful comments. “Newspaper? What’s that? Haw, haw!” goes the typical remark in an online forum.

Who can blame them, really? To anyone under 30, a newspaper must seem as antiquated as telephone party lines and aerial TV antennas seemed to the rest of us. Imagine! Trying to read news on something made of paper, news that has become hours old by the time it hits the streets and which doesn’t contain any clickable links.

When you work in newspapers, you think about your future a lot. Sometimes, late at night, you weep into your pillow and wonder if you’d be any good at Ponzi schemes.

Or maybe just that’s me.

But apparently — and this is going into my diary in all capital letters — not everybody is ready to give up news written on paper. I come to this conclusion after an exhaustive survey during which I talked to random people about their news-reading habits and then stroked my chin wistfully at their responses.

“Hate reading news online,” said one fellow, who just turned 30. “There’s just no feeling of ritual that way.”

And by ritual, I suspect he means that he likes to fold up the newspaper, tuck it under his arm and carry it with him into the bathroom. Which is fine; lots of people do that. Just don’t leave it lying around in there with all your germs, son.

Another fellow I know, who’s not yet 28, is always talking about going out to “get the papers,” a remark that never fails to remind me of Jimmy Two-Times from Goodfellas, who was always going out to “get the papers, get the papers.”

This guy likes to get his national news from USA Today, which he reads before work. He likes one of the Washington papers for political stuff and the Sun Journal for local news. When I asked why he doesn’t read his news online, he said, and I quote: “Because I don’t happen to have a phone or tablet that’s three feet wide.”

Encouraged, I decided to make my survey more cohesive. You know, by posting the question on Facebook. The question being, “Do you still read the news in paper form?” Here’s a very small sampling of the responses.

“Every day. Get the paper off the porch the second I come down the stairs, turn on the coffee and read it.”

“I prefer paper over online.”

“Yes, everyday, it just takes a lot less time.”

“Yuppers, daily, from front to back.”

“Yes I do! I’m an analog guy in a digital world.”

“I sure do. It helps me get going in the morning, if you know what I mean.”

“I get far more enjoyment from the paper copy.”

“Love the smell of print. Yes, I borrow real books from the library too.”

“My morning paper has been part of my daily ritual since long before I knew what ‘ritual’ meant.”

“What color are your underpants?”

That last one has no bearing on the matter of newspapers, but that’s Facebook for you.

The fact is, plenty of people are still thumbing through the news and the more I heard from, the more I had to admit that the disgusting guy from the men’s room was correct. It’s ritual. Or comfort. They like to get their news in doses, page by page, spreading it out on their kitchen tables, their hammocks or their laps. Maybe the news is less dreadful that way, like taking medication in sips rather than one big gulp.

Hey, whatever. As long as somebody besides old Ruth is reading the paper, I’m fairly confident I’ll still have a job for a little while longer. Which is not to say that I won’t let you in on this fantastic new venture that’s come my way. Seriously, friend. A very small investment could make you very rich. No PayPal or other online payments allowed, I’m afraid.

I prefer paper.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. To comment on this column, write to him at: 104 Park St., Lewiston, ME, 04240. He prefers paper.


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