Today is Day 50 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.
On this Sunday morning, as I walked I was surprised to see a newspaper in every driveway for blocks and blocks. That’s something I haven’t seen in years. Apparently, the San Francisco Chronicle has launched a campaign to attract new subscribers by providing free samples.
When I was a little girl, Papa read the newspaper daily and we read the colorful “funny papers” together every Sunday morning. I’d sit in his lap at the kitchen table and we’d laugh at “Peanuts,” “Mutt and Jeff,” “The Family Circus,” “Little Lulu,” Nancy,” and read the continuing sagas of “Dick Tracy,” “Archie,” and “Prince Valiant.”
That tradition made me a newspaper subscriber as an adult. That is, until about 15 years ago when I noticed that we kept getting the paper but no one was reading it. We were paying $10.00 a week to have a paper wrapped in plastic delivered to our driveway so we could put it in the recycling bin. Like so many other consumers, we had turned to electronic media including radio, TV, and the Internet to get the news.
In 1932, when Papa was 10 years old, he sold newspapers in San Francisco to earn money to help his family. He’d hop a streetcar and sell the papers to passengers for 10 cents each. Papa earned a half penny for each paper he sold. He hustled to sell 100 papers, so his father would have fifty cents for lunch money the next day.
I recall that my brother had a paper route when he was a kid and delivered newspapers by bicycle. By the time my sons were 10 years old, they couldn’t get a paper route. “Paperboys” became a thing of the past as newspaper publishers hired delivery services manned by adults who pitched the papers onto driveways from slow-moving vans. In fact you can watch a clip from a 2001 documentary called Paperboys that follows five boys on their daily routes and highlights the decline of the job that for many years prepared young men for the discipline required to earn a living.
Subscriptions to print newspapers have declined rapidly over the past 14 years as more and more consumers turn to online news, and as advertisers invest their dollars in TV, radio, and electronic media. Click here to read the grim statistics for print newspapers.
I’m curious. Do you subscribe to a print newspaper?