Friday, November 20, 2009

The News Within the News

Newspapers are a dying thing. It's a source of sadness for me, because my morning paper is a deeply ingrained ritual, one I've sorta passed on to my kids.

It began for me when I was a youngling, and would eagerly anticipate the comics page each day. As a tweener living in London, I started actually reading the news. It'd be the Guardian in the morning, and the International Herald Tribune in the evening. The Tribune had the comics, eh? I've always subscribed. Always.

Now, things look grim. DC still has a few papers, but they're all on life support. The venerable Post which graces my breakfast table each morning survives because of it's profitable Kaplan educational subsidiary. The others are dependent on the patronage of folks who want a particular spin on the news. The Washington Times only cranks out it's right wing froth because of the generous and ongoing support of it's owner, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The Examiner is similarly bankrolled by a wealthy ultraconservative.

Though I think my WaPo will be around in some form for a while, I'd miss it if it were gone. There are elements of print the ability to see more broadly and encounter things that don't reflect your particular interests...that seem necessary for liberalism in the classical sense to exist. It opens our eyes in ways that online media simply doesn't.

Today, as I was reading the recently redesigned Post over my morning coffee, the news that most struck me wasn't the news that was in the national/world/business section, or the news that was in the metro section. It weren't the Sports Page, neither.

It was the classified section. Classified ads have faded with the advent of online sales, but I've been watching with interest over the last couple of months as my struggling paper has seen a massive increase in one area of advertising. That area is the legally required publication of trustee sales and notices of foreclosure. It's been growing and growing, slowly but surely, over the last few months.

Today, it was the single largest section of the Washington Post. 28 large pages of tiny fine legal print dryly detailing the financial collapse of hundreds of lives in the Washington area. It felt like a particularly ill omen, a dying media published on dead wood chronicling the demise of the ill founded hopes of so many families.