this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on April 30, 2013.
Late last year, Newsweek printed its last physical issue. Its issues are now all-digital, made specifically for tablets and phones for easy access.
I remember how, in my high school years, I sometimes spent my free time at the library to read copies of Time, Newsweek and local newspapers. (And it has just occurred to me that maybe in a few years, I’ll get to read newspapers only with a laptop and an Internet connection.) I remember flipping through those rough pages with that distinct, rustic scent, moving from one article to the next, and fully engrossed in what I was reading, which was enough to make me oblivious to things around me.
That was years ago. Today, we’re in a different world. The fast-paced lifestyle of contemporary man has forced the methods of the past to either conform to the change or die out. It seems that the publishing industry, specifically the newspaper, is on track doing both. Newspaper sales are down. Major publications are jumping ship from their physical counterparts and making do in the Web. I myself haven’t read a newspaper in the past month, and my family’s after-Sunday-Mass tradition of reading the news before lunch seems all but dead. The public demands information by the second, and to many, newspapers simply just can’t fulfill that purpose anymore. Newspapers may die out in a few years, but I’ll still gladly read one over an Internet article any day. Why? Nostalgia? Well, not entirely. There’s something else, something more simple and primal.
The beauty of the newspaper that an online publication can never have is this: the pleasant surprise. You use the Internet to search for something specific, something you intend to read or be enlightened about. There is that premeditated thought influencing your actions on the Web.
That isn’t the case with the newspaper. One moment, you may be reading the local news, and the next, you’re reading a feel-good story that you found on the right bottom corner of the page. There’s the spirit of randomness and spontaneity involved in experiencing a newspaper. You didn’t intend to read that feel-good story, but you find yourself amused and satisfied by reading it anyway. An Internet article is just there, on your screen. That link will only bring you to what the link contains. Nothing more.
Another thing the newspaper brings to the table is peace—in the sense that it’s just you, your chair, and the newspaper. You really get into what you read and gain the greatest satisfaction from it. Time takes a back seat and before you know it, you’ve spent hours reading the newspaper from end to end, your fingers a tad grainy from the ink.
On the other hand, an Internet article brings too many distractions. Ads pop out. You tend to click on links that prevent yourself from even finishing what you were initially reading. What has happened to learning and gaining something from what you read? It has all become superficial.
The main thing is, a newspaper provides that moment of stillness—a break, if you will—before you move on to the daily scramble that is life.
I can state other reasons why newspapers will always hold a special place for me, but those two are the most important. That unspoken tradition after Sunday Mass buying a broadsheet from a vendor in the street for my parents may now exist only in memory, but 5, 10, 20 years from now, newspapers will always find a place on my shelf.
It’s an old–world feeling struggling to survive amid new-age ideals.