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Kathleen Parker: Print's longtime passing

BY KATHLEEN PARKER Published: January 1, 2013
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Future generations may never know the satisfaction of print, nor, likely, miss it — a recognition that is both sad and startling. One of my earliest and fondest memories is of reading with my father, who taught me not only to love words but also to appreciate the smell of a book. Even today, I judge a book by its smell and am always surprised when others don't employ this obvious method of criticism.

Smell is also connected to what we now call Old Journalism. Ask anyone with decades' experience in a print newsroom and they'll likely confess a love affair with the newsroom itself — a sensory universe that once included the smells of coffee, cigarettes, ink and paper, including carbon paper. It was, above all, a people place that over time has become something else — more efficient, perhaps, but less human.

Cheering the next advances

Tension between man and machine is an old science fiction plot that just happens no longer to be fictional. The more digitally entrenched we become, the less human our interactions. Everything at the click of a button has made it less likely we'll take the trouble to exchange pleasantries with a fellow human.

I am hardly immune to some of these digital conveniences. I order out, shop online, have groceries delivered, and resent the phone. I read newspapers and magazines online because it's easier, cleaner and I can stay in bed. Still. There's no substitute for opening one's front door the morning after a blizzard and finding a rolled newspaper wrapped in plastic, reassuring us once more that no matter what nature doles out, human beings will deliver the paper.

Of course, this same newspaper was the product of digital processes for which we are ever grateful. Likewise, we'll cheer the next technological advances as we mourn the passing of old ways. Even true believers grieve the death of loved ones, no matter how “wow” their parting.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP