In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam expounds the theory that our American society has suffered tremendously because of the loss of organizations and agencies that bound us together as a people in the past. While he speaks of the unifying nature of the schools, churches, clubs and the like, I don't believe he considers the power of the daily newspaper as a unifying force.. While the younger generation may look to the Internet and myriad television channels to provide information, I can't help but feel that this cacophony of voices can be more harmfully divisive than informative, and I become nostalgic about the importance of the daily newspaper of my youth. I wonder how much our country suffers by that constant broadcasting of doubt, fear and suspicion found on the internet rather than the considered, tempered analysis of events that is more likely to be found on a quality newspaper.
As a lower middle class family with limited income, we not only subscribed to one daily paper, we had two – The San Antonio Express in the morning and The San Antonio Evening News in the afternoon. And ours could in no way be considered an intellectual family. Others of a different mindset had the opportunity to subscribe to William Randolph Hearst's, The San Antonio Light.
Rather than considering the deeper philosophic positions of censorship and which is the more valid democratic position, I want to share three recent newspaper articles that cause me to renew my appreciation of the power of the press, America's 4th Estate.
1. The Washington Post for Friday, June 12, 2015 on Page C1
“Michelle Obama commences telling it as she sees it"
These are among the quotations that our First Lady shared with high school and college graduates that could serve as a basis for discussion were they read by more of the populace.
- "I want to encourage you to actively seek out the most contentious, polarized, gridlock places you can find. Throughout our history, those of been the places where progress really happens."
- "There will be times when you feel like folks look right past you."
- “There are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers, and they think to themselves, well, that's not a place for me, for someone who looks like me."
2. While not at the same level of importance, I found the article on page D1 in the sports section on Monday, June 29, reflective of one of the joys of an earlier generation: "through 66 seasons, Scully hasn't lost voice". How remarkable that Vin Scully was at the same job for 66 years – and one constantly before the public eye. There's something to be said for longevity. Beyond looking at the joy of sports the article could spur thoughts about the present tendency to hire "temps" rather than commit to permanent employees in order to save money
3. Also on June 29 Page C1 Sarah Kaufman had an article, "A return to the grace of God – and of man". Regardless of one's religious or atheistic or political persuasion, one has to appreciate her view of the president singing a song that can unite us.
Thanks to any of you who've stayed with this rant and rambling until the end. I could say much more about the miracle that I believe the daily newspaper to be. Think of it: "That in retirement I can venture out my front door at 7 AM and hold in my hand a thoughtful report of events from sports to dramatic worldwide events or catastrophes that occurred less than eight hours previously".
Let us all sing the praises of (and subscribe) to the daily newspaper.