As one of the nation’s top 100 humor columnists (some guy in Michigan finally retired, which moved me up a spot from 101), I’m here today to hopefully make you smile. Admittedly, I’m not aiming for a full guffaw, a belly laugh or even a slight chuckle during these uncertain times.
Most of all, though, I am here to make you consider the relevance of print media as we hunker down and wait this out. Yes, the print product.
I’m not here to speak for this particular print product (in fact, I can’t speak at all right now because I have a mouth full of potato chips from one of the 80 bags I grabbed when the grocery store flung open the doors after the mid-morning restock).
Only the publisher, company president or venture capitalist considering its fate can do that.
I am speaking for print media in general, all those good ol’ newspapers given up for dead with the explosion of the internet. Guess what? They are just as important as ever, perhaps right now even more so.
Don’t get me wrong. The internet is wonderful. In fact, I use it every day when I should be working. But the internet — especially those sites that aren’t affiliated with reputable news sources — can be filled with misinformation, disinformation and downright skullduggery, much of that perpetrated by shadowy foreign interests, trolls and bots.
You will not find shadowy foreign interests, trolls or bots in the pages of your local newspaper. (Unless your local newspaper’s name is The Shadowy Foreign Interest Troll Bot Gazette, which I believe is a weekly in Maine.)
The internet, with its immediacy and anonymity, has also served to deepen political and cultural divides. With the print newspaper, it takes days for readers to call each other knuckleheads in the letters to the editor section. Eventually, both sides lose interest and move on.
But with real-time comments on stories posted online, disagreements over seemingly trivial matters quickly escalate into lengthy arguments that end with insults, swear words the filter didn’t catch and veiled death threats. These are not exactly intellectual debates.
Here’s why the print product is especially valuable in these uncertain times. A sister publication offered my newspaper a full-page feature, step by step, on how to fold an origami star for readers to occupy their time in this era of being shut down and shut in. Yes, an entire page of instructions on folding a paper star.
My first reaction was, “When I burn through every other entertainment option on this scorched and desolate planet, I might consider making an origami star.”
But then I realized if you follow those directions in reverse order, you can make emergency toilet paper out of an origami star. That is valuable.
And, speaking of toilet paper shortages…
For subscribers, the newspaper arrives every day (or less than that in some cases but it still shows on a fairly regular schedule). When those subscribers are finished gleaning trustworthy information free from the influence of shadowy foreign interests, trolls and bots, that newspaper remains to ignite the flames in fireplaces that warm hearth and home, line the cages of beloved birds that brighten the lives of those who for some reason want a bird and provide bedding for pups in rescues that are looking for forever homes.
And, when the toilet paper aisle is as empty as a politician’s promise and your last roll is gone…
So, print readers, hold steady. Online readers, have we got a deal for you.
Print media — we’re behind you in these uncertain times.