A requiem for the not yet dead… the Paper.

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

 When I heard the news about the Times-Picayune the above quote from John Donne’s No Man is an Island stuck in my head.  It feels funny to talk about the news when the news is making news… very meta.  And I wasn’t stunned or saddened or angered — although I was all of these things — by this news as much as I was diminished.

The death of print media is not the death of an industry so much as the tearing of a fabric that has bound humanity collectively for quite some time now.  Since stone tablets gave way to papyrus scrolls and bound volumes, first painstakingly inscribed by hand and then pressed and widely disseminated, print media has been the driving force behind the growth of ideas in our world.  Moreover, print has codified our history and our beliefs, our longings, loves, and lives.

There is something deeply personal about “the paper.”  Something that goes beyond the news of the day and becomes part of the tapestry of our communities.  There is a communion between readers and writers, editors and the letters they receive.  There is a democracy… a fundamental spirit of truth… an article of faith… a belief that through the lens of journalism our voices are being heard, our stories told, our rights protected.

And then there are the memories… pages folded out onto tables to form the bed for crab and crawfish boils.  Pages mixed into paper mâché volcanos or masks.  Pages wrapped around boxes at Christmases or Birthdays, usually the beloved sections of the recipients.  Faded clippings that announced graduations, weddings, or funerals… or war heroics… or a city on its knees that was bruised but never broken.  Or maybe even a Super Bowl Championship.

For the men and women that worked tirelessly at their jobs — it wasn’t really work, it was love — I salute you.  For each one of you that suffers a loss we are all diminished.  You did your work nobly, and with pride, and in truth, a hell of a lot better than your bosses deserved.  But you weren’t working for them, you were working for us.  Because you are our voice, the voice the “big boys” keep trying to drown out, but that which resonates all over this town.  And although I haven’t been hear for a long time, I know the truth when I hear it.

So it goes without saying that we know “for whom the bell tolls.”  I guess the question isn’t so much for whom, but what we intend on doing about it?  How many times will they knock us down… how many times will we get back up?  Because they can knock us down, but they’ll never knock us out.

But for now, my mind drifts to dog eared corners and rustling pages and the smudge on the handle of my white mug, secure in the knowledge that change isn’t always better; and my heart goes out to those who are hurt not because they didn’t do enough, but because they did too much, too well, for too long, without ever receiving the credit they deserved.

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