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Newspaper Wrinklers and Crumplers

November 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Journalism, Newspapers

Pretty much everyone who has worked in print journalism nurses a grudge toward people who crumple a newspaper while paging through it.

Today’s paper, especially.

The print journalist would no more crumple a newspaper than tear pages out of a book.

In each case, words on paper achieve an honorary status. They mean something. To partake of them and walk away leaving a rumpled mess of off-kilter pages … is horrifying.

To demonstrate what I am talking about here, have a look at this video and jump to about the 1:15 mark.

Looking down the spine of that newspaper, it can be seen that the reader already has gotten the pages off line.

At the 1:20 mark, he sets down the newspaper (the sports section of the Los Angeles Times, I believe) while managing to rumple it — up and down, left and right. I cringe when I see that.

It is an act of desecration. Who will pick up and read that section after he is done with it? Perhaps someone desperate for reading material — like a strap-hanger in a New York subway — might attempt to smooth it till it is once again readable. Most, however, will walk away from that mess.

Now, I may be (may be) a zealot on this topic. For a couple of decades I saved a copy of every sports section and boxed them up in my garage. (Which is not at all hoarding — it’s record keeping.)

During my professional career I felt it my duty to instruct every young person who came into our area of the newsroom in the correct handling of a newspaper. Many, however, arrived knowing how it was done because they felt the same way I did.

Which means leaving a newspaper nearly as pristine as you found it. Without unnatural fold marks. With pages lying atop each other as neatly as when the newspaper arrived, squared off at the corners, ready to be used as if new by the next reader.

OK, here is a comparison: Think of a road map made of folded-up paper. They still exist. When you are done with that map, for a time, you do not attempt to force the map into new folds when you close it. No. It came to you in a certain fashion and it wants to be returned to its folded-up, lay-flat state. It is your job to replicate that folding.

Here is another comparison. Would you mishandle a sacred text? Newspapers may be on the other end of the “don’t mess them up” spectrum, but they are on the spectrum, with books and maps near one end and magazines nearer the newspaper end.

I know newspapers are sometimes used to wrap things, like fish. Sometimes they are used to cushion ceramics when packing. Some use them to catch droppings in bird cages or soak up oil spills in the garage. Stoke a fire, even.

I am not crazy about that, but that comes after the newspaper is out of sight and out of date. After someone has made a conscious decision to put the newspaper to another use — not when it is a current edition that might be read by someone else if it had not been battered shapeless by the previous user.

I cringe when I see newspapers handled badly. Like by the host of the video podcast I linked to, above.

I like the podcast, aside from the host’s shocking treatment of newspapers.

I’m serious about all this.

Well, sorta.


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