Newspapers and neighborhoods


When did you stop getting the newspaper delivered to your home?

I was driving away from my house the other day, and for whatever reason I happened to be noticing mailboxes. And, as you know, on many the roadside posts that hold mailboxes, there can be a second container… for newspapers.

As a kid, my house was on the delivery route for the evening edition of the local paper. And yes, there was a morning edition as well. To say I loved looking over the paper every day would be a massive understatement. I let the paper sweep me up and carry me away. It started in part because my newspaper had a variety of ways to entertain children beyond just hoping they would begin looking over the funny pages. The Providence Journal contained games and puzzles and all sorts of things for kids to do, especially on weekends

If you asked me in those days about what I thought about the days when I would have my own home… well… I’m pretty confident that things like utilities and setting up home delivery of the newspaper would have been on my list of things to get done quickly as I moved in.

Of course… times change. In those heady days of media overload—really, TWO editions of the daily paper with one of them delivered right to my doorstep—there was no real debate over cable or satellite television options, since most homes didn’t have either. And the internet? What the heck is an internet?

Yes… times change.

Back in those days, the paperboy sweeping through your neighborhood was roughly the equivalent of seeing the mailman… they both stopped every day at every house.

Here’s the thing… and the turning point in our little tale… I have never had home delivery of a newspaper since I moved out of the childhood home.

We could cover a lot of ground in trying to figure out why. As I’ve moved… for college and family and other assorted reasons… I have never found a daily newspaper that can approach the quality of The Journal in those days. (Make no mistake… The Providence Journal in the 1970s and 1980s was a tremendous newspaper.) The reasons I’ve moved include rental houses and work hours that haven’t exactly matched up nicely with following the news each day.

Quite honestly, it can be very strange to consider. I am a huge supporter of local treasures… with community and neighborhood shops, restaurants and, sure, newspapers a part of those efforts.

The thing is… times change.

Quite honestly, one potential reason is a true media overload. In short, the news is no longer an event today.

As I was growing up, the hour beginning at 6pm was set aside for the news. Local news at 6pm was followed by the national news at 6:30. If you stayed up late, you could find out if anything new had happened… including perhaps a change in the weather forecast… at 11.

These days though… most stations are on before sunrise with some sort of morning show. The local personalities continue visiting your home every half-hour with updates during programs like Today. And then there’s 5pm broadcasts.

Hardly the days of exclusives at noon, 6 and 11. Times change.

Another reason is the family home. More than ever, clocks and calendars are suggestions when it comes to a workweek. Monday through Friday schedules and regular business hours are virtually nonexistent.

For lack of a longer description, gone are the days when the vast majority worked 9-5 then came home to eat dinner and read the paper while watching the news. And if you aren’t sure if that’s true, consider how many homes use their dining room table for family meals on a regular basis.

Honestly though, I’m not here wondering whether or not newspapers are better or worse, in demand or lacking interest, and so on. Instead… I’m thinking about the mailbox in front of my house.

There are plenty of ways that today is different than yesterday… and, more nostalgically, than my yesterday.

That isn’t a bad thing.

It also doesn’t mean that the mythical Mayberry has vanished. For many communities the existence of a daily newspaper, children spending almost as many hours in a neighbor’s home as they do in their own, and catching up on the world at the barber shop are still realities.

The funny part is that as the communities around us adjust to today while preparing for tomorrow, it sure appears as if the past holds just a little less significance.

One of my somewhat humorous expressions is based on my theory that clichés are clichés for a reason. Simply put, there’s a little bit of truth in there that carries them along. And one of the great clichés when it comes to truth concerns history being repeated.

I’m not going to be adding a box at my home for the daily delivery of a newspaper. I regularly pick up the local edition (and still clip coupons). I also watch the local news, and check out the web sites of the regional media. I can still offer my support and stay on top of the community without having the paper brought to my door.

After all, times change.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at