Giving Up on the Sunday Newspaper

The Curmudgeon loves newspapers.  No matter where his (limited) travels take him, he’s always interested in picking up the local newspaper to read about life elsewhere and learn about common interests from different perspectives.  One of his favorite parts of the trips he used to take frequently to the home office in Harrisburg was the opportunity to look at the Harrisburg Patriot-News while in the office and then to pick up a Washington Post for the two-hour train ride home.

Sunday newspapers are especially fun, and on those Sundays on which The Curmudgeon wakes up at a decent hour, he can usually rustle up a Sunday New York Times.  Through Calibre, the brilliant tool for people with e-readers, he enjoys (free) access to dozens of Sunday (and weekday) newspapers – everything from the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post to the conservative-and-damn-angry-about-it Orange County Register, the Waco Tribune-Herald, and the Yakima Herald-Republic.

And of course, there’s always the hometown paper.

Oh, the hometown paper.

The Curmudgeon is not a big fan of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  As a quality publication, it probably peaked in the 1980s, and it’s been sold three times in the past few years, with each sale bringing more lay-offs, less quality, and the flight of top reporters who have the skill to work pretty much anywhere they please and the desire to work for a great or even a very good newspaper, which the Inquirer arguably no longer is.

Still, there’s something very special about sitting down on a Sunday morning and digging into the Sunday paper, so even though The Curmudgeon subscribes to the Inquirer for the isn’t-this-pretty-much-stealing-it price of $5.99 a month from Amazon, he makes a point of going out on Sunday mornings in search of the Sunday Inquirer and ignoring the version that arrives (wirelessly) on his Kindle.

Over the past few years, though, that once-delicious Sunday morning experience has become no longer even moderately tasty.  The paper has grown thinner and thinner even as its price has grown fatter and fatter.  The local news is skimpy – the paper pretty much stopped covering all but the biggest stories about the city of Philadelphia itself, ceding that more “colorful” (pun intended, including all its negative connotations) turf to its sister newspaper, the Daily News; the business news is almost non-existent; the review and opinion section is downright boring; the real estate section is just plain tired (how many times must readers endure features about the best dishwasher detergent to use to keep glasses shiny and clear?); and the book reviews fewer and fewer and buried deeper and deeper.

The sports coverage is especially troubling.  Somewhere along the line, both local television and local newspapers seem to have decided that because their users have so many places to get the sports information they crave and already know the basic stories before they tune into their broadcasts or open their pages, they needed to do less hard reporting and be more supportive of the local teams.  It’s much worse on television, where most of the television sportscasters would not look out of place wielding pom-poms, but the newspapers, too, seem to see their role as being more supporters than reporters.   The sports coverage seems jaded, written increasingly by writers who seem more like fans than reporters and who come across as personally offended when local teams don’t perform well.  The Sunday Inquirer also has two very unfortunate sports features:  a column by a radio/tv type who already has numerous platforms from which to say things simply for the sake of trying to stir up controversy; and a columnist who retired years ago, or was retired by the Inquirer years ago – much to The Curmudgeon’s delight – largely because he so clearly had nothing left to say but who now seems to have been granted a weekly column in the Sunday paper, probably because he’s not on the payroll and gets paid by the piece and is therefore cheaper than hiring a columnist who might actually have some fresh insights to offer.

So last Sunday, The Curmudgeon rolled out of bed, got dressed, and was ready to head out in search of his favorite Sunday morning fix when he stopped dead in his tracks as he put his hand on his front door knob.  Why am I doing this, he asked himself?  Will I get pleasure out of it?

He turned around, went back into the house, and turned on his Kindle.  From now on, he’ll read his Sunday paper electronically.  The Sunday paper, or at least the Sunday Inquirer, is no longer special, no longer a treat, no longer something to look forward to, and no longer something worth going out to find on a Sunday morning.

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