RICK HEGE is an artisan, an entrepreneur, and a community volunteer when not consuming news media. He worked with The Commons’ Media Mentoring Project’s school newspaper program when he provided technology support for the Townshend Elementary School District.
Originally published in The Commons issue #165 (Wednesday, August 15, 2012).
It was too hot to do anything — not even in the basement where I work was habitable. So I decided to sit down and read the news. I do not get the opportunity to do that often enough.
I use a pair of news aggregating sites that gather articles from sources all over the world. One of those sites contains multiple sections, all of which I have designed myself by adding preferred sources, preferred topics, and even preferred keywords.
I don’t need a newspaper; all the news I need to read is on my computer in carefully contrived boxes.
But there seems to be a void. Something is missing from the experience.
* * *
When I was in elementary school, we took a field trip to the local newspaper.
We witnessed a spacious environment called a newsroom, where reporters sat typing on some weird machines at rows of desks. We heard the clickety-clack of unstaffed steel monoliths cranking out reams of paper from AP and UPI.
The Linotype machines were amazing, but nothing beat the visual impact and noise of the presses: huge mechanical beasts composed of room-sized tubes covered with lead sleeves full of letters and words that passed through ink, depositing it on paper.
At the end of the process, there were newspapers, cut and neatly folded, then strapped into tight bundles according to what route they would serve and stacked onto trucks.
* * *
For most of the time from when I was 12 years old until I graduated from high school, I threw papers. I was constantly covered in ink, and I felt like I was part of something important.
My customers wanted their morning paper on their doorstep by 5 a.m., so it would seem that my papers were important to their lives. In the morning, after I finished my delivery, I would sit down with a copy of the paper and a glass of orange juice, and I read the news from front to back.
The afternoon paper — yes, I delivered both a morning and an afternoon paper — was not as critical, so I often had other neighborhood children accompany me on my route. It was a social occasion to some extent, but when people got home from work, that paper had best be on their porch.
While I was in high school, a couple of young reporters by the name of Woodward and Bernstein appeared on the scene. Their work and the support given them by The Washington Post made a major impact on a generation of young people, me included.
I, like many, simply wanted to be a reporter and work for a great newspaper. It was an honorable profession that could accomplish great changes in society.
That stop was not on my path, but I have recently encountered a distant, older relative who served as a photojournalist all his life, much of it during a very tumultuous time in North Carolina. Every time he pulls a picture from his archives and sends it to me, I am in awe.
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