If It’s Fit to Read, It’s Fit to Print

The Swarthmorean
November 17, 2017

By Kathryn Taylor

Trigger warning: Sustainability advocates who long for reduced dependence on paper may feel some discomfort while reading this piece. It is all about dependence on paper. Lots of paper. But there is recycling involved…

Wednesday is recycling day in our neck of the Wallingford woods. Tuesday evening we scurry around the kitchen gathering up the goods to go in the big green container we wheel down to the end of the drive. We have the usual stuff: Prego jars for my “homemade” spaghetti sauce, 8 ounce plastic containers that held whitefish salad from the Co-op, large hinged containers once filled with Caesar salad from 320 Market, an empty bottle (or two) of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

But newspapers, by far, make up the bulk of our recycling. Jon and I love newspapers – real newspapers we hold in our hands. The New York Times, including the Sunday edition. The Philadelphia Inquirer with its comics. The salmon shades of the weekend edition of the Financial Times. The weekly Cape Codder that keeps us connected to our place up north. And of course, the Swarthmorean.

We start most mornings leafing through the pages of the daily papers laid out on the kitchen counter. We drink our coffee and tea without fear that a slurp might become a slop and spill into a keyboard. We eat our toast with grape jelly and pick up the paper without worrying that sticky fingers might mess up a temperamental touchpad. On Sunday mornings the many pages of the fat Sunday papers upholster the couch while we do the crossword puzzle, check the weddings in “Sunday Styles,” and toss various sections of both papers back and forth as a headline catches our eye. (“Look at this week’s Craig LaBan restaurant review. We should try that one!”)

It doesn’t matter where we happen to be calling home – our passion for papers travels with us. Up on Cape Cod, Jon picks up three daily papers when he gets his coffee at the Brewster General Store: the NY Times for the crossword puzzle so I can still kick start my brain in the morning. The Cape Cod Times for closure alerts on Route 6, coupons for $1 oysters at the Oyster Company Raw Bar & Grille in Dennis Port, and the movie times at the Cape Cinema. The Boston Globe, filling in for the Inquirer with city news. (Although I do check the online version when we are in Wallingford, I much prefer the print Globe. For one thing, I take comfort that readers of the print version see the same ads that I see, whether for Middlesex Federal Bank or Northeast Home & Energy. It gives me the creeps when online ads appear for clothes that I have just bought with my J. Jill credit card.)

We recently spent nine days in London. Just off the plane, we bought four newspapers: the NY Times international edition, and three others to audition for our second daily paper: The Times of London, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian. Which won? For us the vaunted Times had lost its credibility, even though it still publishes the Court Circulars in case we wanted to keep up with the Duke of Kent’s schedule. Although our liberal political persuasion should have inclined us to The Guardian, we fell for The Daily Telegraph. In this “paper of record,” page two will have an extended complex explication of tense Brexit negotiations in Brussels, illustrated with a photograph of downcast Theresa May flanked by whispering Merkel and Macron, and then, tucked in the bottom right corner of the page, a 200-word story: “Pensioner eaten by crocodile” (dateline: Perth). An unlikely link to be listed as a Brexit “related story” online! The lead article on the facing page covers the news that a Dover sole jumped down the throat of a fisherman who was kissing it (dateline: Bournemouth). The fish blocked the fisherman’s windpipe, sending him (the fisherman) into cardiac arrest for three minutes before emergency responders extricated it. The fisherman survived; the fish did not.

Print newspapers are worth far more than the paper they are printed on. They pulse with the personalities, the lives, of their writers, their editors, their publishers, their communities, even their advertisers. Print newspapers enrich the lives of readers who stumble on an eye-catching headline deep in section B and learn something they would never have found by browsing online. Even ads can lead to fresh discoveries, unlike online ads that appear because you have already bought something from the same company!

So please forgive us for what may look like wanton disregard for a natural resource. We think of it as supporting a precious endangered species. And we promise to recycle.