What we will miss when newspapers disappear

Watching “Irma La Douce” last night, after reading “Out of Print,” Eric Alterman’s New Yorker piece, on newspapers dying, we realized that Eric omitted what we will miss when discarded newspaper can no longer be found lying around the house.


In “Irma La Douce,” Jack Lemmon, playing Nestor, the defrocked, now homeless policeman, spending the night with Irma, hangs curtains, improvised from newspaper, across her bare windows to shield her from the possibility of being seen from the Paris street below. He has already described to Irma how he often inserted a folded newspaper under his uniform jacket to help keep warm on rainy beats. Dramatizing the practical uses of newspaper, Nestor reminded us of Red Skelton’s sleeping on the park bench skits, under and on blankets and mattresses of newspaper.


What else is throwaway newspaper good for? Wrapping for fish, and rolled newspapers, soaked in a tub of water, then dried, make efficient fireplace logs. The logs burn slowly and evenly with minimal smoke, stack and store neatly, and pack easily for camping trips. When we were kids, we copied the colorful Sunday comics onto pancakes of Silly Putty. Nowadays, we post our favorite comics, cut from the newspaper, onto the icebox. We rely on newspaper for kitty and puppy mishaps, bird cage lining, and party spills. Newspaper is an effective window wipe, for car and house, makes good fly swatters and fans, and comes in handy for arts and crafts, and for masking and painting jobs. We had an uncle who taught us how to make pirate hats from newspaper. Our spouse makes sensible use of newspaper coupons. The Op-Ed page, slipped unceremoniously under the commode door – bereft in a TP shortage, one wouldn’t treat even a week old New Yorker like that. In elementary school we used newspaper to cover our text books. Gone too, after newspapers die, the paper drive fundraiser.


Finally, we will miss the frap of the morning paper tossed onto the front porch, a reliable alarm clock, or sometimes we hear the paper sliding across the pavement of the drive, announcing rain (splat) or sun (long, dry skid). No doubt, others can add to our list of what will be missed with the dying of the newspaper, more mere memories added to the detritus of 20th century anthropological curiosities.

But newspaper is organic. It can be added to the compost bin, and after breaking down can be used as mulch to spread around the Web garden.  


  1. Michele Walker says:

    I had forgotten those summer days with a blob of silly putty and fresh comics from the newspaper. Thanks for the reminders Joe. I think I may have wrapped a gift or two in the comics, oh and what about that good old paper mache. It would not be the same without those old saved clippings of important historical moments in our history, and what about the birth of our children, the death of a loved one cut out of the print and tucked away someplace special.

    I recently saw a man in a grocery store trying to sell newspaper subscriptions, he was as desperate as a car salesman. Practically selling his soul to get you to sign up for a trial. He even offered gift cards for the store to real them in. To me our world is spinning faster and faster, and I am not sure I want to jump on board all the newest on the technology train.

    Newspapers would be missed and what about the feel of a good book in ones hands compared to a skinny Kindle media? Even just making photo prints is becoming a part of an old past time. We take digital photos with our cameras and phones, but most of the time they just make it to a social networking site or possibly on our computer. Then what happens when something happens to that? They are gone forever! I had a hard lesson with that recently giving my old cell phone to my teenage son, before I retrieved the memory card inside with just a click of a button he erased my years of photos. I took my new fancy high tech phone to NYC. Wow the pics look so wonderful on the phone and Facebook, try having them printed-not so wonderful! Sad I took most of my pictures with my phone. Next time I will lug an old fashioned camera instead of the easy convenience of my little phone.

    I advocate for real print! I have an addiction to newspapers, hard back books, and photographs. I will be the hoarder of these in my little home till someone kicks me and my pastimes out, and throws me on that D___ train one way.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Hi, Michele! Thanks for reading and for the comment. Ah, yes, papier-mache! Reminds me of another use for newspaper: spit wads! The boys in my 8th grade class once had to eat an LA Times as punishment for starting a classroom spit wad battle. I guess I need to fall off the facebook wagon again if I want to see the pics of yr YYC trip!

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