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There’s no substitute for newspapers

I like newspapers, not tabloids, newspapers. When visiting other cities, I glance over the USA TODAY, which is left each morning at my hotel room door (whatever the city), but it is the local daily I purchase to enjoy with breakfast.

After two cups of the usually excellent coffee and an overview of what’s happening in the world, I am ready to start the day.

Through an informal survey, I have learned that most newspaper readers begin with page one headlines and read opening paragraphs under each to decide which article to follow through to the jump page. Of course, hardcore sports enthusiasts give priority to that section. Steel-eyed executives turn immediately to the business section and stock quotations. Housewives probably prefer lifestyle pages, but I have no idea if children read the daily comics or even the Sunday comics.

I know that I follow reading habits of the majority, mentally marking stories to read in depth later, before I turn to my favorite part of a newspaper, the editorial page or pages if there is an adjacent op-ed. From the local comment, opinions and columns printed there, it is possible to learn a great deal about any community. For on those pages beats the heart of a newspaper.

My friend Hollis Curl publishes The Progressive Era in Camden. This small-town weekly is a sterling example of excellence in newspapers, due in no small part to its columns and editorials. Hollis is not only an articulate and witty writer (who deserved the Pulitzer), he is also exceedingly well informed. He has strong feelings on a number of subjects, in particular politics and politicians, and is not at all shy about expressing them. This, naturally, allows for great reading by his subscribers as well as his fellow journalists.

From time to time he becomes embroiled in an ongoing written debate with Wilcox County ladies of equally strong, obviously conservative political philosophy, who are not at all shy about expressing their wrath and indignation at his comments on our Republican elected officials, both in state and national. The printed discussion is sometimes so lively that I await each Wednesday’s mail delivery of The Progressive Era in anticipation of the continuing saga, which occasionally assumes the form of a newsprint soap opera.

More than two decades have passed since Wilcox County and Camden were part of my Times-Journal news beat. However, through Hollis’ thoughtful gift of his newspaper, I again am familiar with the friendly people in what became one of my favorite Black Belt towns.

I read of their weddings, their deaths and births, their school functions, their business advertisements and even their want ads. Want ads can be highly interesting, you know, especially legal notices.

Now, I ask you, could one possibly be so entertained as well as informed through other media sources? God bless Gutenberg and God bless newspapers, especially small-town dailies and weeklies.

Postscript: For my friends in television and radioland, I enjoy and admire you, also, but my first loyalty remains with the print media, which is often faceless but seldom nameless and never, ever dull. Proof? Who among us has never called the circulation department of a favorite newspaper when delivery failed? Who among us has ever called the transmission studios of a local television station when the picture disappeared?