Culture At Large

Newsprint

Christian Bell

Far fewer people seem to be bothered by the death of newspapers than I would have hoped.

My mother and I delivered The Denver Post for a year when I was in high school. Every morning that year, I came to school with newsprint on my hands. It stayed on my hands long enough to wear off on the pages of my high school, college, and grad school newspapers, where I was a writer and editor for each. Around the breakfast table every day too, I would finger through the inky pages and take in the day’s events.

That other Denver newspaper – The Rocky Mountain News – closed its doors on Friday, two months short of its 150th anniversary. It joined the ranks of dozens of other newspapers that are either teetering precariously on the precipice of dissolution or have already gone over the edge. Too few people seem bothered by it.

Newspapers are a source of information, opinion, and communication. They establish, in long form writing, the pulse and lifeblood of the communities in which they publish, and they do so in a way unequaled in any other medium.

Perhaps because we have been largely antipathetic towards the closing down of the small, local churches in our towns, we are also largely antipathetic towards the newspapers.

Without churches on street corners, we no longer hear the bells ringing when a new marriage begins, nor do we pass by the dark funeral processions on our way home that remind us that from dust we came, and to dust we return.

Without newspapers on street corners, we no longer are told of important events happening to the people beyond our neighborhoods, nor are we told of the victories, casualties, triumphs, struggles, births, and deaths in our towns and cities.

Our faith thrives on communication – on words – to make sense of our world. Ours is the tradition that boldly sustained literature and oratory in the darkest of times. And yet we seem curiously ambivalent that the town criers – our local newspapers –are falling silent while we watch.

There is no theological case to be made for reading newspapers, but there is a moral case for them: That we live, work, and play in this world, and ought never to become detached from what is happening in it and all the parts of it that are bigger than our own spheres of influence.

Pick up and read Scripture; “eat this book,” as Isaiah is told.

Afterwards, pick up and read your local newspaper too; become connected to your community and the neighbors you’ve never met. And maybe, just maybe, pray about what you read too.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars.”

But not if you aren’t reading.

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Christian is a network administrator, news correspondent, and occasional writer and photographer. He is a graduate from Calvin Theological Seminary and Calvin College, and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife Beth.

Topics: Culture At Large, Business & Economics, Economics, News & Politics, Social Trends, North America