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Prompted By Newspapers

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When first married, we lived across the street from a supermarket. Sunday mornings, Dan would run across the street and buy a Sunday Boston Globe. We whiled away the day reading it, relaxing before going to dinner at his parents’ home.

We moved and the paper wasn’t as readily available. I always subscribed to Newsweek to get my news quota. As the years passed, we’d pick up the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times in the office. Once I was home with our children, we subscribed to home delivery of the Boston Globe, more than 30 years ago (we change the subscription from time to time, as deals come up that make it more cost-effective). We transfer it to our Vineyard home in the summer. We enjoy reading it daily.

We used to take the Sunday New York Times as well, but it would just stack up, unread, so we canceled that, though we do have a daily online subscription. A year and a half ago, I got a deal for an online subscription to the Washington Post. They update their site throughout the day and I enjoy many of the op-ed writers. I get a mid-day email from them with news highlights, “The Daily 202”.

But the Globe remains our “paper of record”. Dan would go straight for the sports. I read it cover to cover. With COVID, delivery has been erratic. They keep increasing the price. Dan now reads it only on his iPad and just skims it. Since the arrival of the Orange Monster, he can’t stand the news. He is lobbying me to dump the paper subscription and save the money. I am resisting. I dislike reading everything online. The glare off the screen is hard on my eyes. And I don’t like the form factor.

eGlobe on my computer with tabs open for NYT, WaPo and WSJ

A friend who had also been a long-time subscriber missed his delivery for several days. He asked his neighbor what was going on and learned that there was NO MORE home-delivery in his neighborhood, a fact The Globe never mentioned to him. He called, they offered him an e-subscription. In a fit of pique, he cancelled altogether (they also charge in advance). It is infuriating.

We went to London for a month in December. One can only put the paper on vacation hold for three weeks. Longer than that and you have to change the terms of your subscription to online, only at a different price point. So I did that for the time we were away. However, we discovered that it came with only one email log-in (after a frustrating morning, where Dan threatened to cancel our regular subscription and go to all online when we came home, he just logged in as me, as this happened the day before we flew. I had not been informed of this when I switched. Ah, the things they DON’T tell you).

Stacks in the lounge at Heathrow

The paper was supposed to resume the day we came home. It did not. I called in the failure a few days electronically, then finally spoke with a human, who apologized and said he would get on it. The next day, all the missing papers showed up, with a mysterious note about substitute carriers and where do we want the paper put (we live on a corner and I want it at my back door, but since returning from the Vineyard, the carrier hasn’t figured that out, so I have been content, so long as it really is on my doorstep, not on the side walk). It again did not show up on the Sunday after the snow fall – two days after the snow stopped. Sigh. E-reader for me. It may well be on the street, but I’m not going out in my bathrobe and slippers to search.

The Globe has been publishing for 150 years. These days, they seem to buy a lot of their news from the AP or the NYT. They can’t afford to keep as many journalists around the globe as they used to. They seem grateful for their subscribers, but they really need to do a better job of delivery if they want to continue with the print edition.

Letter received from Linda Pizzuti Henry (wife of Globe owner) thanking us for being faithful readers

I prefer reading my paper in paper format, though I know that is dying. Just yesterday, I clipped an article for my files. I like seeing everything laid out for me, not having to click through. But I am a dinosaur.

 

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    A terrific chronology of newspapers through our lives, Betsy. And you hit many of the same chords — and dilemmas — I’ve found, especially in terms of the quantity and the medium/delivery of my newspaper delivery over the years. So thanks so much for sharing your own experiences and thoughts on all this.

    Growing up in Connecticut and then living in the NY area much of my adult life, I’ve always been a Times guy, and I still can’t quit it: to me, despite its many faults, it remains “The Newspaper of Record.” But, now living in the Boston area, I’ve decided that I must also have some access to the Globe so as to know what’s going on around me — even if I really, really don’t need so many damn articles about the Sox and the Pats and their every moves.

    That said, one of your points really hit home with me: why is the Globe’s digital version a miniature picture of each of its pages? Are they just too lazy to re-format it for computer and phone screens? It is nearly impossible to read in that format.

    I’d like to think that neither you nor I is a dinosaur — more a hybrid in an evolving world. Sort of the Prius of newsophiles, OK?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I understand your allegiance to the New York Times, John. I enjoy much of it too, though it annoys me that stories online are often delayed a day from their print edition. I don’t mind that the Globe on-line (for computers) is a facsimile of the print edition (I want to see the photos, etc). But I hate having to expand everything to be able to read anything, one article at a time; very slow and grueling (and tough on my dry eyes). Your point about a smart phone edition is well-taken.

      OK, I’ll take the Prius metaphor. Thanks.

      • John Shutkin says:

        Equally anoying (or just confusing) is that digital articles in the Times often run several days before they are run in the print edition. For example, last week I read (the scandalous!) article about sex among the elderly in the digital edition well before the article appeared in last Sunday’s Magazine.

        • Betsy Pfau says:

          Interesting. Yes, I guess I did know that sometimes those long-form magazine articles (which aren’t timely news stories, do run ahead of the print edition. And they don’t actually update their site throughout the day, unlike WaPo, which is constantly updating their site (and why I never seem to get off the computer…I’m constantly on the WaPo site).

          • Khati Hendry says:

            I can relate to the frustrations of home delivery you describe, as well as the dry eyes reading everything on line. The hybrid approach seems inevitable. I just hope some semblance of free press persists, so critical to a democracy.

          • Betsy Pfau says:

            I agree, Khati. A free press is essential! The Republicans have gone after Biden for calling that moron Doocey (son of their popular morning anchor) a “stupid SOB” at the end of his press conference last week. Colbert mocked them, since they said Biden has been SO unfair to the press…he never called them “an enemy of the people”, unlike Fox “News” orange idol.

        • Must say John I didn’t get thru the sex-over-70 article – I thought the photos were creepy! (Altho I confess I have been saving it!)

      • Fun to read your newspaper saga Betsy, but sorry about the tech and delivery snafus!

        As New Yorkers of course we’d addicted to the NYTimes, and when we’re in the country we have it delivered there. And Danny does read it online as well, but I need the hard copy for the crossword and the KenKen!

        Only problem is lately it’s so hard to find any GOOD news in the paper.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    I’m with you, Betsy, but I fear we are dinosaurs. Missed deliveries of our newspaper are frustrating. Much like the mail, it seems that rain or snow or heat mean no paper. I can keep up to date online but I still like to read the paper with breakfast in the morning, and my husband refuses to do his beloved crosswords online. They must be done in pen and on paper.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, we are dinosaurs, Laurie. My father-in-law used to do the crosswords in red felt-tipped pens. My husband did them in ink too, but lately has moved online, many a day and doesn’t mind the form factor.

  3. Marian says:

    As many of us wrote, your experience resonates, Betsy. I scan the New York Times online site (don’t have a subscription to it) and can click to the various sections to see the highlights, at least.

  4. yoni11 says:

    It’s been a wild ride for printed newspapers in this century. Your cousin Marj declared her intention to become a newspaper journalist in 1943 when she was 18 years old. She did make a career of it and got out before the paroxysms of digital competition shook the presses.

  5. Suzy says:

    Great story, Betsy, and I know that you and I have similar views on this, as on so many things. It’s surprising to me to realize that I never read the Boston Globe when I was living in Boston, and now I can’t read their articles because they are behind a paywall. I am envious of you being able to clip an article for your files, something I used to do, but my files are in such disarray I would end up losing it anyway.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I never doubted that you and I would have similar views on newspapers, Suzy. But I didn’t really read much news when I was young so it isn’t too surprising that you didn’t read the Globe when you were in Boston. Besides, you probably still read the NYT. When I clip an article, it’s because it relates to something in one of my photo albums, or the Rose, so immediately goes into a folder or album, or perhaps its a review of a show I want to see, so I keep it just a short time as a reminder to see the show, then toss it.

  6. Jim Willis says:

    Betsy,
    As a former resident of the Back Bay, I approve heartily of your choice of the Boston Globe as the gold standard. Your story evokes wonderful, bittersweet memories not only of my Boston years but also of the downward spiral of the print media. Thanks for writing this.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I’m afraid print media is doomed, Jim. I know you are a recent retiree. It seems you got out in the knick of time. When did you live in the Back Bay? We spent seven happy years there (1979-’86). In fact, we discovered that our last condo just sold again a few months ago. You can see quality photos of it in the real estate listing (412 Beacon Street, Unit 1). It hasn’t changed at all. We brought our first-born home to that condo. We were so happy there!

  7. Dear dinosaur. You’ve written a much-appreciated personal history of the demise of a major metropolitan newspaper. I have grown accustomed to gathering the news online, but I rarely visit the home page of the various papers I peruse. I miss the big, easy-to-read papers but I do appreciate the breaking news features that keep the copy writers and editors busy. No more morning and evening deadlines. It’s just all day, all night, everyday. And then, if you’re a big shot, showing up on cable news with your lipstick on straight. Whew. What a life!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Seems like you are also a dinosaur, Chas. I have a steeply pitched roof, and even after my steps were shoveled off on Sunday, the sun caused an avalanche of roof snow to crash onto a portion of them by my front door yesterday afternoon, so I would have to go spelunking to get my paper right now. I’m still in my bathrobe and slippers, so it’s online reading for me this morning!

      I find I am constantly on the WaPo site for the updated news items of the day. I do appreciate that, but, just as you say, I love spreading out the actual newsprint. Nothing like it. I don’t really use Twitter, nor am I a fan of cable news, so I really am antiquated.

  8. Susan Bennet says:

    What a consumer horror story you relate, Betsy! I commend you for your persistence in trying to maintain your subscription, but most people will not pursue the matter past the annoyance stage, I think. Several years ago, in my local supermarket, the city paper stationed a man in the store to hawk print subscriptions. It was a bit embarrassing, and I knew they had to be in straits to do this. I am sure many can relate to your frustrations. I agree that a number of factors are contributing to this decline. Thank you.

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