It was just a decade ago that newspapers were fighting for space in Chicagoʼs downtown newspaper racks. Now, nobody cares.
The racks were installed by the second Mayor Daley as part of his efforts to clean up downtown, where busy street corners would sometimes have ten, 15, or even 20 newspaper boxes all chained together, spilling out into the street and blocking both pedestrians and traffic.
The new street furniture brought order, but also controversy. Small and marginal publication accused the city of playing favorites. There was always room for a Tribune drawer, or a Sun-Times drawer, or a Crainʼs Chicago Business drawer; but neighborhood, non-English, classified advertising, and pornography publications couldn't always get in.
Lawsuits were threatened, but I donʼt know if they ever went anywhere. Perhaps simply because right around the same time, people en masse decided to get their news from the internet for free, instead of paying for dead trees. It didn't help that both of the big newspapers doubled their prices (or more) as the internet ate their revenue.
Today, about the only place to get a newspaper in downtown Chicago is in a drug store. And even then, you might have to go to two or three different stores to find one, since so few are printed. There's no need, since work-from-home has made a 2022 weekday lunchtime on LaSalle Street feel like the same location at 6am on a Sunday in 2012.
One of my newspapers didnʼt come today. So I tried to let the Houston Chronicle know it has a problem. Naturally, since the conglomerate that ate Houstonʼs paper of record doesnʼt have customer service people on the weekend, I have to fill out a report online. And, naturally, the web site doesnʼt work.
Even if I had to wait on hold for a while to speak to someone about it, a human being could solve the problem immediately. Instead, I have to remember to call the newspaperʼs customer service people during the week to get credit for the missed delivery.
Remember when computers were going to make our lives better?
According to todayʼs paper, you can now crush a car, operate heavy machinery, shoot a machine gun, detonate explosives, drive a monster truck, launch flaming arrows, blast flame-throwers, and drink yourself into a stupor all in one place. Because doing all those separately was too much work.
Oh, and thereʼs a brothel on the other side of the ridge.
I can only assume this started with someone from Texas saying, “Yʼknow, thereʼs just too many rules around here.”
Today I learned that one of my friends applied for food stamps because of the COVID situation. I found out about it from an interview in the New York Times. I think that makes me pretty much the definition of a bad friend.
When I was in J school, we were issued little pamphlets from the New York Times titled How To Read The New York Times. It was very useful, and one of those things that would be useful for people to read today since so many are burdened by information overload.
The instructions went something like this:
Throw away all of the sections you donʼt like.
Put the remaining sections in order of priority.
Look at the headlines on each page. If a headline doesnʼt interest you, move on.
If a headline interests you, read the subhead or the photo caption. If youʼre not interested or arenʼt learning anything new, move on.
Read the first three paragraphs of the article. Move on when you stop learning something new.
This method is still remarkably effective, especially for plowing through a fat pile of Sunday papers.
The only Times sections I toss are the Book Review and the Magazine. I like books, but I want to form my own opinion about them. And the Magazine is just hard to read. The paper is too glossy and the print too small for the stylish lighting in my abode.
Counterintuitively, I find the Sports section quite compelling. Even though I have near zero interest in sportsball, thereʼs always an article in there that is intellectually intriguing. A couple of weeks ago there was a good piece about how “home field advantage” is a thing of the past because teams are so pampered in their palatial practice facilities that even when they play in their home stadium, theyʼre playing on unfamiliar territory. Fun stuff.
I like living in a place where the front page of the Sunday paper is about the rodeo, and not about a couple of political tribes bashing each other and pretending that one is better than or different from the other.