'Snailpapers' term of endearment for newspapers

Posted: Monday, March 08, 2010

I want to introduce you today to the word "snailpapers." What's a snailpaper, you ask? These are the newspapers we read every day with news that is often 12 hours old by the time it reaches us. Inside, the news is even older.

Maybe you are reading this commentary in a snailpaper right now. Then again, you might be reading it on a screen.

I want to be very clear from the outset about one thing: I am using the term "snailpaper" as a term of endearment for the daily print edition of our local newspapers. I am on the print edition's side.

I am a paper man. I was born with paper and I will die with paper. I delivered newspapers on my bicycle newspaper route as a kid in the 1950s, and I still read my local snailpaper every day now in my early-60s. I love my snailpaper. Please do not take it away from me, oh Digital Age!

So let's be clear. I am using "snailpapers" as a warm loving term, not in derision. So wipe that smirk off your face! I am not dissing or dismissing newspapers. As far as I am concerned, snailpapers make the world go around. Long live the print edition of the this newspaper!

Now, of course, I am employing some humor here to help us all get around the current "paper-rock-scissors-print-screen" boondoggle we are now facing. Although I know that Walter Benjamin once famously said that "hope is for the hopeless," I hope Mr. Benjamin was wrong about print newspapers. I want to see them survive.

As I said, I grew up in Massachusetts on print newspapers. I read the Springfield Union, the Springfield Republican, the Boston Globe and the New York Times on Sundays. I read the Juneau Empire for 12 years when I lived there, and when I wasn't reading the Empire, I was flipping through the pages of the Anchorage Daily News, the Anchorage Times, the Nome Nugget and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner when I lived in other parts of Alaska.

Like I said, I grew up on newspapers and I intend to die with them. In fact, I am hoping my brief three-sentence obituary -- headlined "Snailpaper Coiner Dies" -- will appear in a brief notice in a real paper newspaper rather than just on some pixilated screen somewhere in the blogosphere.

Give me my daily snailpaper or give me death!

I realize, of course, that we are witnessing a vast literary shift right now from paper to screens, the ramifications of which we cannot yet fathom. But think about this: while paper is not better or worse than screens, just different - what the future holds for snailpaper readers is food for thought.

That's why I recently coined this new word: "snailpapers." I love them. I don't want to see them go.

So as you turn the pages of this newspaper today, scanning from story to story, clipping out articles you like or that the state legislator you work for asked for -- and underlining important sentences such as this one -- remember this: newspapers weren't born yesterday. They were born long ago. Should we bury them so soon? It will be a sad day when the last print newspaper leaves the shop.

Ask Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes" or Ben Bradlee at the Washington Post or Bill Keller at the New York Times.

Let me conclude this love letter to print newspapers everywhere like this: we must do all we can to preserve the daily snailpaper, and if humor can help us get over the hump and through the current malaise, then this newly minted coinage might serve some small purpose, even if as a small historical footnote to the slow death of what we all once loved and cherished - that thing called paper.

Long live snailpapers everywhere, from sea to shining sea. They play an important role in our lives, and if nothing else, yes, we can still use them to line the birdcage or wrap fish.

Dan E. Bloom is a former editor of Juneau's Capital City Weekly who now blogs from Taiwan. He can be reached at bikolang@gmail.com.

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