Friday, February 27, 2009

Extra! Extra! Where will you read all about it?

As a teenager, I’d wake up every morning on 2002 Lewis Trail, walk outside to the dark morning and grab my daily present.

The Dallas Morning News and the Grand Prairie Daily News were waiting for me in a plastic bag on my front sidewalk.

I’d eat my cold cereal or slices of toast smothered in peanut butter and devour both papers from start to finish. That was my routine until the day I owned a computer.

I grew up reading the best sports journalism has to offer. Ed Werder, Randy Galloway, Skip Bayless, Tim Colinshaw, Kevin Blackistone, D. Orlando Ledbetter and so on and so forth. Those men told me the stories. The scripted out my childhood memories.

When I was a young writer, I would sit next to Randy Jennings of the Grand Prairie Daily News and watched him cover sporting events. I would stand in his interview circle and listen to ask simple questions to simple high school coaches. I learned a lot from him in those moments.

Nearly 15 years later, I ask those same questions to those same simple high school coaches and simple high school athletes.

There is nothing else that I love more.

But the days of walking to the sidewalk to get the paper are long over. The days of thumbing through the paper are dying. Newspapers are quickly dying off in a day and age of instant information and an eroding economy.

The Rocky Mountain News announced it was shutting down it’s presses today. The paper released a terribly depressing online documentary that told the story of the importance of it’s paper in Denver. The scene has been and will be played out in newsrooms all over the world in the next year or two.

There was one moment in the video that was poignant. A gentleman standing outside in the cold Denver air at a transit station said something very profound.

“An uniformed society breeds social evils,” he said in his west Africa accent.

We, the journalists, may be perceived as bias, agenda-driven liberals. Not so. The newspaper has always been the social cross-examiner.

The newspapers informed us. Good papers and good journalists told the stories and let the reader make up his or her mind. Now, and I’m equally guilty of it, we find our news online. We find our news in blogs. We find our news on our “phones.”

The day after I watched Nolan Ryan, my boyhood idol, toss his 5,000th strikeout from the first row of left field bleachers with my family, I bought a paper. The day after I watched Mr. Ryan toss his seventh no-hitter, I bought a paper. On September 12, 2001 I bought a paper.

I still own those papers. I will own them until the day I am buried and leave this Earth. I don’t read them very often, if ever. I don’t recall their words but I have those moments, my moments, in history.

That is what newspapers are to us. They are our lives journals that we don’t write.

The newsprint stains on my fingers that I acquired after 32 years of reading the paper will never go away.

Musician Ben Folds penned a song, “Fred Jones part 2” in 2001 and the story rings true today more than it ever has.

Fred sits alone at his desk in the dark
There's an awkward young shadow that waits in the hall
He's cleared all his things and he's put them in boxes
Things that remind him: 'Life has been good'
Twenty-five years
He's worked at the paper
A man's here to take him downstairs
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
It's time
There was no party, there were no songs
'Cause today's just a day like the day that he started
No one is left here that knows his first name
And life barrels on like a runaway train
Where the passengers change
They don't change anything
You get off; someone else can get on
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
It's time.

I, even a young writer, became Mr. Jones last year. Life has barreled on and I am still looking for a place where I can tell stories as a career.

Do yourself a favor today or tomorrow or Sunday or whenever and buy a paper.

It would make Mr. Jones smile.


Sarah Young said...

As I started to read this I immediately thought of that song. I love you babe.

Erin Lemons said...

Justin--I will buy a paper today just to make Mr. and Mrs. Young happy!!!!

Barb McLean said...

It's think you know someone and then in a single blog you learn so much. I love your passion for writing Justin, and know that even though it is evolving (news), you will find a way to pursue doing what you love. You have too... there are stories that only your perspective can tell.

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