Today I want to look back (think or talk about something from my past, my personal history). Back in the mid-1970s, at the age of 11 or 12, I worked as a paperboy for the evening newspaper in St. Paul, the St. Paul Dispatch. A paperboy (or papergirl, although they were mostly young boys) is a child who sells newspapers on the street or (more commonly in the U.S.) delivers the newspaper to people’s houses. It was very common for newspapers back in my youth (younger days) to have paperboys all throughout the city delivering newspapers. The newspapers would be dropped off (left, transported to) on a street corner early in the morning (5:00 AM) and during the mid-afternoon (4:00 PM), and the paperboy had to walk to the corner, pick up his 40 or 50 newspapers, put them in a small bag, and walk from house to house delivering the newspapers.
Before we delivered them, we usually folded them so we could easily toss (throw) them at the houses as we walked by or rode by on a bicycle. Nearly every house subscribed to a daily newspaper in my neighborhood, so there was always lots of work. I had lots of friends who also had these paper routes (paper delivery jobs) when they were in elementary school in order to earn a little extra money for candy and soda and whatever kids spend money on. Being a paperboy was part of growing up for many young boys during the mid-20th century in large American cities. (Newspapers in the 1990s began moving away from having young children work as paperboys, and now most newspapers are delivered by car.)
In the Twin Cities where I grew up (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota), each city had two daily newspapers – one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Before the age of cable and satellite television, and long before the Internet, the only way you could get your news was watching one of the three local television stations or reading a newspaper. My parents received the daily paper, and I would always begin my day reading the paper as I ate breakfast (cold cereal, usually). I remember watching my father read the paper every morning and every evening. Like most children growing up, I wanted to act like the adults in my world, so I, too, read the newspaper every day. In fact, when I got my paper route, I spent part of the money I earned (made) on a subscription to the Minneapolis Star.
Then, sometime in the 1980s, when cable television became more and more popular, people started reading the newspapers less, so many morning and evening papers combined into one, single morning paper. The St. Paul Dispatch became the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch; the Minneapolis Star became the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and so forth. All across America, newspapers were closing or combining.
Then came the Internet. Now, everyone could get almost all the news they wanted online – for free! So the number of subscribers to the newspapers began to decline even more. Combined with the current economic recession, many newspapers simply cannot survive. Several newspapers have closed in the past few months, some of them 150 or more years old. Some are moving to the Internet, such as this Seattle paper.
Many people welcome this change. They like getting their news whenever they want and the freedom to read any newspaper in the world that is online. But of course, newspapers need money to pay reporters who report the news. With few subscribers and Internet advertising that does not pay them enough, some newspapers – many newspapers? – will simply disappear in the next few years because they don’t have the money to continue. This is especially true of smaller, local papers.
Although I do read news stories online, I still prefer to read an actual, physical paper. Every morning, just as I did when I was 11 years old, I get up and collect (pick up) my morning newspapers from my front steps, and sit down with a bowl of cold cereal to read the newspapers. I love the physical paper in my hands, and I will miss it when it’s gone.