Gimme A Smile: Imagine life with no newspapers

I’m doing a rerun today. This was the very first essay I ever published in the Juneau Empire, on Sunday, April 12, 2009.

I know the date only because I am an unrepentant packrat, or “historian,” if you prefer. I saved that newspaper, along with every other paper that features any member of the Barnhill family, in a pile to rival the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Good thing I did, too — the online version of the Juneau Empire no longer has this essay in its archives. Score one for the paper newspaper!

At any rate, the topic may be even more timely today than it was more than ten years ago. So, here goes…

Imagine a world with no newspapers. No news at the newsstands, no paper boy jobs for kids, nothing to hide behind at the breakfast table. Big deal, you say—I can get all my news off the Internet. True—after a fashion. But the Internet can never replace a paper newspaper.

Picture your life with no newspapers. The recycling bin in the garage sits empty. How are you supposed to start a fire? The chimney sweep told me to start with a hot burst of flame to blow the air up the chimney and let the smoke draw from there. Nothing makes a hot burst of flame better than a big wad of newspapers.

What about those wet sneakers? You won’t have any newspapers to stuff down into the toes to soak up the moisture. I suppose you could stick them in the dryer and support the electric company and the shoe manufacturers in these hard economic times.

When’s the last time you painted your walls, or your cabinets, or a bookcase, or just a pinewood derby car. I’ll bet you used newspapers, didn’t you? I’ve even heard that newspapers and vinegar get your windows cleaner than Windex, but I’m too chicken to try it.

What about your parakeets? Just think of all those bird cages in town lined with a clean layer of newspapers.

Do you need a few minutes to yourself? Do you really think you’ll take your laptop into the bathroom with you? Come on, admit it, I’m sure you’ve read the paper in the bathroom at least once in your life.

Think about your kids. What are you going to put on the table to protect it from glue or water colors? Your computer paper just isn’t big enough to fold into a newspaper hat. Remember that art project, where you roll up a newspaper and cut strips on one end to make a flower?

Maybe the kids take a closer look at the newspaper. They get such a charge out of seeing their names or pictures in the paper. High school sports, middle school honor rolls, artists in the spotlight, or just a chance photo while hiking or sledding—it gives you something to send to Grandma. Have you ever seen your name in the newspaper? I’ll bet you cut it out, to save in a scrapbook or a box full of papers precious only to you.

Imagine Sunday morning with no newspaper. Won’t you miss that simple joy of getting to the newspaper first, so you can be the one to peel back the crisp black and white layers to get to the colorful comics in the middle? Can you find the funnies on the Internet? Could it possibly be the same as gathering around the paper at the breakfast table while your dad reads you the comics?

Imagine a world with no newspapers. You’ll still get the news, but you’ll miss out on the whole experience that comes with the newspaper.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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