A former student I had not seen in some time and his lovely wife joined me for lunch recently, and when they did, they brought a gift they said they had been carrying around for nearly a year. A coffee mug with the inscription “Journalism matters, today more than ever.”
They know me well.
Well enough to appreciate that, while I respect the work of my television and radio brethren, to me, journalism means newspapers.
I refer to myself — and proudly so — as a “newspaper junkie.” Ask me my favorite sounds, and in addition to my grandson’s laugh and the chord my MacBook Pro hits when I turn it on, I’ll say the thud of the morning paper landing on my front porch. I start reading it standing up in the kitchen while waiting for the coffee to brew.
On Sunday mornings, I’ve already read The Citizens’ Voice cover to cover when I arrive at the convenient store and buy another $10 worth of papers. The New York Times, at six buck a pop, accounts for most of that.
I must admit, The New York Times is for my wife. Her good looks aside, it was finding out she’s read The Times every Sunday since she was a teen that made her most attractive to me. We’re fond of road trips, Mary Kay and I, and often during a long drive, she’ll be in the passenger seat reading The Times aloud to me. Even the obituaries. Your obituary doesn’t make The Times unless you’re somebody, so there’s an “a-ha” moment, an enlightening tidbit, in every one of them.
Speaking of travel, you have no idea how excited I get reading a famous paper in its home city. The Chicago Tribune in Chicago, The Boston Globe in Boston, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, The Washington Post in the nation’s capital.
Along those lines, I got a rude awakening the first time I visited my daughter and her husband in Los Angeles. I was almost giddy reading The Los Angeles Times at an outdoor café and brought the paper with me back to Greta’s house. I laid it on the coffee table, where it became invisible to her and her husband. They walked past it all day long without even noticing. It might as well have been a gum wrapper, I thought, except if it were a gum wrapper, they probably would have noticed it and threw it in the trash.
As with most young people, they get their news from their computers and their phones. But I suspect that is about to change now that they have a child. When their little boy starts playing Little League or youth soccer, I’m sure they’ll be looking for the local paper just to see his name in print.
They live in Austin, Texas, now, by the way, home of the nearly 150-year-old American-Statesman. Just sayin’.
The disinterest in newspapers exhibited by my own child (I’m not including my son because he subscribes to the Sunday New York Times, although I suspect mainly for the accompanying online access and the crossword puzzle), and her contemporaries has prompted a sense that print journalism is dead. But I beg to differ. Borrowing from Mark Twain, reports of the death of newspapers have been greatly exaggerated. At least here in Wyoming Valley.
Around 2001, a national firm was commissioned to study newspaper readership here. I was in attendance when they revealed their findings and their first comment was, “People around here read a lot of newspapers.” It is nearly 20 years later, and while newspaper readership certainly is not what it once was, that statement still holds true.
Which brings me to the “flawed research” I refer to it that headline.
When I read recently that The Citizens’ Voice daily circulation is 20,968, and The Times Leader’s 16,641, I got to thinking, is there another product locally that can claim 37,609 daily sales?
I decided to look into it.
With Google as my research partner, I learned Dunkin Donuts serves about 3-million customers a day nationwide. (The New York Times, for the record, sells 4-million papers a day, but that’s beside the point.) While we cannot assume every Dunkin customer orders a cup of coffee, since this is my flawed research, I will.
I further discovered there are 11,300 Dunkin Donuts locations across the country. Applying simple long division, that means each location sells approximately 265 cups of coffee a day.
Stay with me now. At 265 cups of coffee per day per location, there would have to be 141 Dunkin Donuts in Wyoming Valley to equal the number of newspapers sold.
Know how many there are?
So, according to my flawed logic, newspapers around here outsell Dunkin Donuts coffee 9 to 1.
Yeah, yeah, I know there are a lot of other places selling coffee in Wyoming Valley, so, yes, perhaps coffee sales do equal newspaper sales.
The only thing I have to say about that comes by way of another Mark Twain quote: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”