(This column brought to you by scissors.)
Here’s something we should do more: Thank you for reading our newspaper.
We also appreciate you reading our stories on your phone (the most likely digital place you’ll see this), desktop computer or tablet, but the heart belongs to inkstained fingers.
My heart does, anyway. I spend as much time as the next modern American staring at my phone, but I’ve had a connection to newspapers almost since the day I was born.
One of the perks of being the first baby of the year was your picture in the local newspaper. I was presented with a $25 U.S. Savings Bond for that, or so a photo tells me. Big money for someone whose primary achievement up to that point was just showing up.
Snip. It becomes a clipping in a photo album. (Sidebar: I can’t find that clipping, but did find the followup story from a year later, headlined “Gary Presley Ends Reign As Falls Baby Of The Year.” I had a reign. The story includes the sentence “If we didn’t know better, we’d think Gary reads the funnies.” That’s eerie because …)
Not much later in life Mom says I learn to read by reading comic strips. We had at least two newspapers delivered to our suburban Detroit home (I think it was three, but I was young and my memory is hazy), and one of them was a gold mine of Peanuts, B.C. Lil’ Abner and other soon-to-be classics. A little more education every day, four panels at a time.
Flip the page: I don’t remember why, but they photograph a bunch of us kids (brother Dave and I included) piled into an old fire truck. Snip.
Flip more pages: We’ve moved, I’m in high school and The Lima News publishes my letter to the editor, something about bikes and cars and garbage along the road. My band director sees the letter and says something to me about it during band rehearsal – directly to me. I don’t remember what he said, but I learned that people read your stuff and they have opinions about it. Snip.
Flip the page: After a shaky start in engineering at The Ohio State University, I see the writing on the wall (in truth it was the writing in my journals) and decide to major in journalism. Snipping begins in earnest.
Flip the page: I get my first reporter/photographer job out of college at a small 5,000 circulation newspaper in northern Indiana that pretends it’s both Democrat and Republican so it can rake in the legal ads. Mom and Dad get a subscription and fill paper grocery bags with clippings of my stories. SNIP.
Flip many pages: After years working behind the scenes editing and doing newspaper layouts, I again start writing regularly. Our AIM Media Midwest newspapers print my columns from time to time.
Natalie Heil reads one of those papers, The Lima News. She snips the columns to send to her son, Dave, who’s a pastor in Colorado. He’s also my best friend from high school. Mrs. Heil (I gotta call her Mrs. Heil) was a school librarian, and has good taste in literature.
Dave opens an envelope, snaps a pic of some clipped columns with his phone and texts it to me: “You’ve got a 94-year-old fan in Lima.”
How cool is that? She’s got a fan who’s typing right now. Thanks for reading, Mrs. Heil. Say hi to Dave for me!
Gary Presley is still playing with newspapers as pagination director for AIM Media Midwest. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.