Raising Richmond: Carrying the Banner

Why I brought the newspaper back home.

There are some things that future generations will not experience that won’t matter, like rotary dial phones and Crystal Pepsi. In our house we rarely watch TV live anymore. We don’t have a house phone. We often don’t even answer the door when someone rings the doorbell.1

But of all the antiquated methods of communicating and connecting to the world, I thought I would bring back the newspaper. Warning: this story contains a lot of “back in my day” remembrances.

I haven’t subscribed to the Richmond Times-Dispatch in years, and even then it was just Sundays only, and the paper was delivered too late to be useful (or just never showed up). I get my news–local and otherwise–through the radio and Internet, local TV morning news, and sometimes from that damned Today Show on in the background.2

I didn’t miss anything about getting a newspaper. There was never time to read it in the mornings, and I didn’t feel like I was missing information I couldn’t get elsewhere. However, I didn’t like the idea of my daughter not knowing what it was and what it meant. I majored in Mass Communications in college, so even though I didn’t end up as a journalist, I still studied newspapers and feel connected to the profession.3

When I was growing up in a daily newspaper household (twice a day until 1992), I looked forward to different features every morning. Dave Barry’s Sunday column was one of my biggest influences as a young writer. As a teenager, I contributed to the now defunct InSync, which was written by area high school students. You may remember my album reviews in 1996-97 that were basically “this is how this music compares to my favorite band Oasis.” It was a paid gig, too. The Richmond Times-Dispatch was my first writing job (and later, out of college, I edited for InSync and wrote a few articles for the Weekend section). It was a thrill to see my name in print in the big city newspaper.

I remember that you could read something in the paper and then have a conversation with someone about it that day because everyone else read the paper. Since newspaper subscriptions have declined so much, I don’t know what kids do now when they need to find an article for current events or science projects in school. Do they just print out Huffington Post pages or Buzzfeed quizzes?

I’ve now subscribed for Thursday through Sunday. So far the paper’s there when I’m ready to get it, and although I don’t have time to read much of it before work, I learn something new that I maybe would not have read online. If the news is something I already knew about, the print version is sometimes a better story with more perspective than the tweet or article I skimmed online. Although it’s alarming how little of the content is written by RTD staff, and I’m sad that things like movie reviews are syndicated. Because remember how much we used to hate that movie reviewer? Man. So Much.

Being a better informed citizen is fine, but the real reason why I wanted to get the newspaper is so my daughter could experience the comics.

The comics must have been the best way to hook future readers. You read them when you’re little, and then as you grow older you mosey over to read Dear Abby. Then you’re reading other pages and sections and looking at the Kohls ad and the business articles and forming opinions and writing letters to the editor. And then you see your photo in the obituaries!

Back to back in my day: the comics. I had Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side–comic strips that had cultural impact. My daughter, unfortunately, will not have anything as great. She does enjoy Peanuts, which still shows up–the first two collections are two of her favorite books, and I still laugh out loud at some panels even though I’ve read them to her hundreds of time by now. After the paper started coming she noticed that I was reading comics. There are three pages of comics in the RTD now. My daughter and I huddle over the paper and eat our cereal while I read her almost every strip in the newspaper, including Rex Morgan, MD and Judge Parker. The comic strips are so, so not good. But it’s still fun.

Being able to present things familiar to you as new experiences to your child is one of the great joys of parenthood, and one of my most treasured pastimes is hating both Funky Winkerbean and Family Circus, so I am thrilled to be able to share that with my daughter.4 Though if you told 15-year-old me that my children would have to endure Funky Winkerbean I would not have had children. OK, that’s not true.

I’m glad to have the newspaper in the house, and in my child’s memories of how a household starts its day. And when I finally come across a comic that makes me laugh I’m going to cut it out and leave it posted on the refrigerator door for years.

Photo from Richmond Times-Dispatch; June 17th, 1916 (PDF)

  1. It’s easier to pretend to not be home than to open the door to tell some teenage boy I don’t want to buy whatever thing he’s selling for whatever program I think is fake anyway. 
  2. I will reward handsomely the person who can convince my husband to try a different news show in the morning. There is nothing worse than Carson Daly and his Orange Room, which is what is always happening when I am near the TV. Listening to a grown man say hashtags out loud is a terrible way to start the day. 
  3. I mean, as connected as possible without actually subscribing to a newspaper. 
  4. Seriously. What is going on with Funky Winkerbean? Is it taking place decades in the future again? Is Funky dead? Why won’t that guy just retire? 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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