I do like coming home in the morning, around 6:30 and finding the orange rectangle in my driveway. It's the Key West Citizen delivered by Dale every morning in its weatherproof orange bag and it is my pleasure, after a refreshing sleep to drink tea and read the crisp clean pages of a proper printed page. Some people enjoy denigrating it as "the mullet wrapper" but I find it to be a remarkable production for a city of 25,000 and a county of 75,000 residents. I hope I am never reduced to reading the online edition of my hometown paper..
Even in boarding school in England when I was barely a teenager I spent a large portion of my meager allowance from my step father on my own crisp copy of the Daily mail. It was a conveniently small paper, one of the first to give up the "broadsheet" size of the huge traditional papers that were offered free in the common room of my "house." I enjoyed reading the paper enough that I wanted my own unsullied copy. Indeed I was hiding in the toilets reading the Daily Mail (I was a snobby young conservative in those far off days) when a young fag was sent to find me to send me downstairs for an interview, wherein I was told my mother had just died. Then I was bundled off to French class to conjugate irregular foreign verbs with my fellow illiterates. I had, looking back on it, a very Dickensian upbringing...
I learned this week that American democracy is on the ropes, one more time. It seems the Chicago Tribune has declared bankruptcy, a venerable Mid Western institution going under. Commentators are sobbing declaring the era of the newspaper is Over. It may very well be over, but not because the Tribune's owner is in difficulty. Indeed the developer rejoicing in the name of Sam Zell has said the paper will continue operations without losing a beat as he tries to reorganize the debt he owes on the paper. It so happens the paper owes 13 billion dollars and can't meet repayment obligations, the first amount owed to the tune of 500 million dollars (phew!). It turns out the zealous Mr Zell just happened to borrow the very same 13 billion dollars to buy the paper in the first place and now finds himself in difficulties. I guess he was hoping rising values would buy him a free paper and he got caught short. And because the economy took a dive the Tribune ends up looking like it can't pay it's bills. Too bad as it's not it's bills that are the problem.
They say newspapers are on the verge of going extinct thanks to the Internet and loss of classified advertising and people like me will soon be deprived of our daily reading fix, with the ink on our fingers and that crinkly noise of the thick paper opening up in our hands. Newspapers have been around for centuries and in the past they dealt with competition from pamphleteers writing essays on single sheets of paper and distributing them like pirate publications. Given half a chance, especially if not being used as financial tools by speculators I'd like to think newspapers could do okay even today, competing with and participating on the Internet. It's just that no business, not even a newspaper can carry billions in debt to support the bad habits of speculators. That will be the death of the printed daily word and another reason for me to get mad at the greedy people who screwed up our economy.