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Nath: In defense of paper

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
Caddie Nath
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I have a beautiful old copy of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Actually, it’s disgusting. The pages are crinkled and discolored from having been spilled on and dog-eared because I never could remember to use a bookmark. The paperback cover is creased and folded from all the times I fell asleep rereading the story of a young woman locked in the attic with only her family and her thoughts. The margins are filled with my little-girl handwriting; contextual questions about the intricacies of Nazi-occupied Europe, musings about how different Anne’s life was from mine.

It’s a beautiful copy of a beautiful book because it bears on its pages, not only Anne’s history, but my own.

Call me old fashioned, but in our fast-paced world of international communication and instant messaging, I still believe that paper has value.

It’s a dying belief, I know.

No one lies to you when you’re graduating from journalism school. The truth about the field you are about to enter isn’t hidden or sugar coated. So when I got my degree and accepted my first job at the Summit Daily News, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I’d already spent four years on a campus where I’d estimate 97.5 percent of the student body had never picked up the newspaper we put out every week and probably 20-30 percent wouldn’t have been able to even tell you the name of our publication. And I’d spent six months working at a large urban paper without ever having received a word from a reader.

So when I accepted, gleefully, a post as a reporter with the Summit Daily, I knew what I was in for. Or I thought I did.

I raised my eyebrows in my interview when my editor told me 90 percent of the county reads the Summit Daily weekly. I nearly fell out of my chair my first week on the job when I got not one, but two emails, several online comments and a phone call responding to my stories. But best of all was the day, several months ago, when I received a picture in my inbox of a Summit County local casually reading the newspaper – in the Himalayan mountains.

So my first year on the job, which should likely have convinced me beyond any shade of doubt that the journalism industry is taking its last breaths, is bringing me instead to a different conclusion: The written word still has value, and newspapers still matter.

It’s been said newspapers are the first draft of history. I like to picture copies of our paper being picked up at coffee shops, and used as coasters on kitchen tables. I know that some of our articles are cut out and saved, while others are scanned, considered and then used to wrap up coffee mugs to be packed away.

Who knows: In 50 years, someone might discover the saved clippings or unwrap the stored coffee mugs. And to that person, it won’t be the glassware that is valuable, but the paper it was wrapped in. The handwriting filling the crossword puzzle. The coffee ring stained on the front page.

It’s just paper. But it’s paper that is printed with, not only today’s stories, but our community’s history in the making.

So thank you, Summit County, for proving all the industry analysts wrong. Thanks for reading the paper.

Caddie Nath is a reporter at the Summit Daily News. Reach her at cnath@summitdaily.com.


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