To me, there is nothing so wonderful as a fresh crisp newspaper, lying gray and pearly on the table, ruffle-edged on top like a bolt of fabric. I love the way a newspaper arrives, wrapped like candy in a bright-colored wrapper, watching the sunrise from my porch. I love the smell of a newspaper–like biscuits and rain–and the titles, in all-caps, bold, italicized, small, all sized mysteriously by a design-minded editor. I love the photographs in their pixilated pop-art perfection. Liberal, conservative, local, national–I’ll take anything, from Durham’s Herald-Sun to the New York Times.
I believe in the unopened newspaper as the symbol of a new day: it begins early in the morning, and inside its pages, anything wonderful or horrible could hide. There could be an article that will spark my interest and send me sliding on a career path, so that in 20 years I can look back and say, “It was that article about Peruvian suspension bridges that made me an architect.” Or there could be an article about a brand-new war, an atomic bomb, or one of my classmates drowning in the lake. Newspapers remind me of the ever-changing newness of life. Even on the most empty summer day, there’s always something to fill the sections.
I believe in the opened newspaper as a form of disguise. Sitting in a train station with a fedora and a newspaper held above my face, I could be a spy or an internationally known film director. Sitting at my kitchen table on a school morning, I can barricade myself off from my brother and my mom, avoiding their eyes and noise from behind my newsprint force field when I’m just not quite ready to wake up.
And I believe in the read newspaper as an addition to my understanding of the world, and a contribution to all the ideas that each reader keeps inside. I know I can’t remember everything I read, but I know that each article makes me more familiar with the world as it exists now, and that newspapers have taught me more about what adults care about, what Americans care about, than I’ve ever learned in school. A read newspaper is a vocabulary lesson (Sardonic? Blinkered?), a lesson in history and economics, culture and politics, an entertainment and a pleasurable view onto New York stages or Chapel Hill museums. And when I close the newspaper, with smudgy fingers leaving plum-shaped prints on all pale surfaces, I believe I’ve found the greatest purpose of newspapers: learning for the pleasure of learning, and not because anyone’s told me to.
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