21 October 2008

Reading Newspaper

In my birth family, especially in my mother's birth family, reading the newspaper was traditional. The two papers of choice were the Hartford Courant and the New York Times. It was an activity so woven into the fabric of my mother's family farm-culture life, almost ritualistic, that I can't recall a time when newspaper reading wasn't done in my birth family.

In the Civil War letters of my maternal great grandfather Henry Elliot Savage, of Berlin, CT., who volunteered for and served in the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Regiment, he often pleads for newspapers to be sent him. We know he read one newspaper called the Emancipator. He journeyed to Washington DC in August 1863, marched to and survived Antietam, then Fredricksburg, then down to coastal North Carolina, where he was captured and moved to Andersonville Prison in south Georgia. There his letters and newspaper requests end.

In my birth family my parents reading the Sunday New York Times and sipping whiskey-sours is central in my memory to their day of rest. My father was more a charismatic teller of tales and not so much a newspaper reader. He loved to hear himself talk. In his final years he taught me to seek out, read, and digest The Wall Street Journal. It was a gift of love and utility he gave me near the end of his days.

My mother was a diarist and reader. It was she who read newspaper. In her later years she was a secretary in the business office for the weaver's magazine Shuttle Spindle, and Dyepot. She was a superior editor. I am certain she assisted in the magazine's layout. Old newspapers collected in her home. One of my tasks to settle the 93 years of her affairs was to close her subscription to the Hartford Courant.

My sister is a talker but she's also written scholarly papers on poster-art and, of all things, clay pots fashioned in Mata Ortiz, Mexico. She imports the clay pots driving from San Diego and to Mata Ortiz.

My brother was a highly trained newsman. He began his career as a stringer for The New Haven Register in Guilford, CT.  He graduated Columbia Journalism School. He served a 7-year apprenticeship at The New York Daily News. He went forth to become a national and international public relations executive for Mobil Oil Corporation ending his career there as the Mobil go-to guy in Indonesia. He was a man from whom words poured forth, spoken or written, into any medium he could use. He needed pen and paper, (later typewriter, keyboard, mouse, CRT, later creating an ahead of its time on-line on-demand publishing house Ravensyard Publishing, Ltd.) and his words and voice as much as any of us needs air to breath and live.

As a youth in school I won prize for words I wrote, but turned to photography, on old-school medium now, yet still a medium for all successful stories.  Now we call them "images".

In my fantasy I sit in a european city in a cafe on a buoyant sunny spring or fall day, sipping coffee eating pastry and reading cover to cover the International Herald Tribune. I enjoy, take pleasure in, reading the newspaper. To me it's time spent that informs, refines, enlightens, and educates. (Oh God, I sound like a geezer.) I'm not lonely in reading and seeing the journalism and photographs in the newspaper. I'm talking old-school printed ink on paper I hold, and I sit, stand, walk, do the subway-fold if necessary, turn page by page and read. It's not a searched information source at a click-on site on a liquid crystal display screen. The newspaper is not a site. The newspaper is my companion. It's my window into about and for an unseen and unknown world.

To the old question of "Is there an unseen world?" There's no question. One only has to sit, hold, read, and turn the page of a newspaper, any one will do, to read, see, and learn from it.

But uh oh . . . is what I'm saying more about medium or about the style of the medium.  One might just as well spend time being informed, refined, enlightened, and educated on-line at a site as with print on paper.  More on this later.

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