An Irishman’s Diary on why printed newspapers are hard to beat
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“Wrapping chips. Imagine what the grease, salt and vinegar would do to your Galaxy Nexus. Not only is the newspaper perfect for soaking up all of that, for some reason chips taste 100 per cent nicer when plucked out of a crumpled sheet of a newspaper. Afterwards you can see what was happening in the world a few weeks previously.”
The dawn of the internet age hit home recently as I observed my 14-year-old son grappling with his Junior Cert art project. As he attempted to paint a large papier mâché pig, the prospect of life without printed newspapers was laid bare right there all over our kitchen table.
There I was, pink-paint wielding teenager on one side and a rather nice six-place table (bought at great expense during the boom) on the other side; crying for me to take care. I know, I said to myself, I’ll get some newspaper from the recycling bin and lay it out on the table before he starts painting. That way, the woodwork will stay dark brown and any errant brush strokes will be neutralised. Into the recycling with me; milk cartons, aluminium tins, plastic packaging from a packet of ham. Newspaper? Not a chance. Having worked in the newspaper business for close on 20 years, there had at all times been a spent newspaper lying around the place. However, having started that career in a department known as The Irish Times Electronic Publishing Division, I have for some time been reading my news on a screen more often than on sheets of paper. Not a discarded newspaper to be found. Standing there, I begin to reminisce for a time when a newspaper was always at hand for those moments a tablet or iPhone just won’t cut it. Here are some things the many thousands of newspaper purchasers still enjoy about the printed form when they are finished reading all the news that matters.
Wrapping chips. Imagine what the grease, salt and vinegar would do to your Galaxy Nexus. Not only is the newspaper perfect for soaking up all of that, for some reason chips taste 100 per cent nicer when plucked out of a crumpled sheet of a newspaper. Afterwards you can see what was happening in the world a few weeks previously.
Wallpapering. The 1970s pursuit of wallpapering over wallpaper over wallpaper over wallpaper is back in, but it’s not the same is it? What do you put beneath the wallpaper for future generations, who will be spending their weekends removing all of that paper and adhesive when they return to plastered and painted walls?
Showing off: The problem with tablets, phones and laptops is that you can’t tell what people are reading. In college, there were people who bought The Irish Times, and made sure everybody saw it. They would walk around with it sticking out of their pockets. It was an efficient and more elegant than wearing a T-shirt with the words “hey look at me I’m sophisticated and intelligent”. Lighting a fire: how exactly do people light fires these days?
Fly swatting. The newspaper, rolled up, is one of the best weapons for combating invading flies, wasps, dying bees on the windowsill, or for coaxing a lost spider to the outside world. It is also perfect for chastising a dog that has been caught short and used the living room floor as a urinal. Not only that, it provides perfect soakage in such situations.
Poking fun at your betters. It is a rite of passage, and still one of the most satisfying pursuits for a twenty-something, to draw hilarious moustaches and glasses on his favourite politicians whose photographs have been published in a newspaper. Again, try this on your iPad mini at your peril.
Washing windows. Newspapers are surprisingly a really good tool in the washing of windows. Here’s how: warm soapy water, soft sponge, little bit of elbow grease and then dry newspaper to wipe that window to a reflecting shine.
Ransom photo. What do kidnappers do when they want their victims to verify that they are still alive? They hold up a newspaper, which is clearly showing the previous day’s news.
Hiding. The printed newspaper is in fact a perfect tool for hiding. See somebody coming down the train carriage you don’t particularly want to talk to? No problem, raise the newspaper full width and you are fully anonymous.
Keeping. I know somebody who bought three copies of The Irish Times the day after Nelson Mandela died: one for himself and one for each of his adult daughters.
The End. I miss the end of the newspaper. The idea of setting aside an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday, to read it in totality is so alluring. No more clicks: just a self-contained account of the previous day, hopefully something new you haven’t heard before and a great piece of writing that makes you think, cry or shout. When this happens I like to fold up that newspaper and put it away and years in the future I take it out, the paper slightly yellowed, and experience those emotions all over again.