By Arthur H. Gunther III
BETHESDA, M.D. — Rituals in our lives change, but that does not mean they are easy to get used to, even to accept. Here I was in beautiful Bethesda, a neat D.C. suburb with all modern amenities, expecting 1961 and a few decades after to remain the ruling time. But it was 2013, and I don’t get the language.
An early-morning ritual is to take a walk, have some java and read the local newspaper, in this area The Washington Post. And so I sought a paper. But there was none, at 6:30 a.m., long after morning editions have gone to bed. I asked a very polite but matter-of-fact store clerk when the newspapers might arrive, and I was told, “When the man gets here, he gets here.” In other words, the news, the information that impacts our lives, which entertains, saddens, enlightens, exposes charlatans and connects us to the full range of human emotions, and which once would await no man’s delay, would now “get here when it got here.”
I was a newspaperman for four decades and remain one in soul. Never missed a deadline, thank you. No bragging – the first rule of newspapering is to get the info out on time, quicker than that, if possible.
Now, with so many fewer print readers, information delivered in bites via Smart phones and iPads and TV, the morning newspaper no longer seems vital. Sad, for a much fuller report can be had in print, all the better to be informed in a democracy that you want to keep as such.
While I waited in a Bethesda strip mall parking lot for the paper delivery guy to get there, I saw descendants of folks like me, but they were not buying papers as their dads and granddads did or still do. Instead, they were in their cars, lined up at a bank, at ATM machines, to get money for the day.
Once, we carried money in our pockets from our cashed-pay checks for a week or two. We went to the bank to cash the checks. And we used some of our pocket change to buy a newspaper.
I doubt if many of the good, hardworking people on the ATM line buy a paper after they get their bank machine cash. Probably quench their thirst for information via mobile devices or computers.
The world has changed, and so has its ways. I simply forgot to get on the train.
But I’ll never read about it in a newspaper.
The writer is a retired newspaperman.