August 29, 2012

Life Without a Daily Newspaper

I learned that the Syracuse Post-Standard, my hometown newspaper, was moving to three-days-a-week home delivery next January from my brother-in-law's Facebook page; he works at the Times-Union in Albany, and had posted his paper's story about my paper.

I grew up with the Syracuse newspapers. We now have only the morning Post-Standard, but used to have the afternoon Herald-Journal and the Sunday Herald-American.  Each of the papers had a slightly different voice, with different columnists and reporters, different comics and different crossword puzzles, different editorials. I think I had letters published in all three papers, over the years.

My Dad and I read the papers cover to cover when I was a teenager, always finding something interesting to talk about. After he retired, Dad used to leave messages for me when he found something interesting in the paper.  "Read Dick Case." "Did you see Poliquin?" "Haggart." "Sean, page 2." Sometimes he'd leave a longer message, directing me to something specific in an article, some nuance he wanted to make sure I didn't miss. Always the teacher, and me forever his student.

One of my fondest memories of my father features the Post-Standard in a starring role; it's a fond memory now, but much less so back in 1977, when I was a newly minted college dropout. 

I was the honor-society child of two teachers, a top graduate from a small school in a small town where my parents were prominent members of the community.  I'm sure at the time my dropping out and coming home, head hung low and tail between my legs, was more of an embarrassment to my Mom and Dad than it was to me.

I had been home for no more than two or three weeks, and had settled into a routine of dragging myself out of bed and heading downstairs for a cup of coffee around 9:30 or 10 in the morning. Naturally, my father had been up for hours by then, had read the paper, and was going about his day.

One morning when I came downstairs, he was sitting at the kitchen table with his cup of coffee and the newspaper.  The classified section was on the table, in front of my usual seat, opened to the employment ads.  He said good morning to me; I mumbled something back to him, poured my coffee, and started to head out of the kitchen.  I stopped when I heard him say "I know how many jobs there are for you in the paper today. Do you?"

The first day he did that, I stomped out of the kitchen angrily, bitterly, with a "who needs you" attitude.  The second day he did it, I muttered "no" and kept going, with considerably less stomp in my step. The third day, I picked up the classifieds on my way out of the kitchen when I saw them, folded, waiting for me.  And the next day, I got up an hour earlier, took the classifieds, and started looking for a job, before he had the chance to look for one for me.  Three weeks later, I found one.

Six months after that, I had saved enough money to move out, into an apartment I found in the Post-Standard. One of the first things I did was subscribe to the daily papers, allowing Dad and I to continue our conversations on the news of the day, something we enjoyed until he passed away in 2007.

It will be hard to get used to the four days a week without a paper landing on my porch. And I can't help thinking that my Dad's tough love would have been much less effective if he hadn't been able to put that newspaper in front of my empty chair, open to the right page, to drive home his message.