By Edson Atwood
My cherished ritual just ended.
Thank you, Hudson News—I mean Hudson! (Hudson News rebranded as Hudson a few years ago.)
Its slogan: “We Are The Traveler’s Best Friend.” Well, not my best friend. My best friend would have newspapers.
Whenever I travel for business or otherwise, I always pick up a local newspaper. I usually try to pick it up in town. If it’s a longer trip, it’s fun to read local news while you’re in the area you are visiting. You can refer to local stories to the people you are temporarily living among.
But often I forget to pick up a paper in town. So, I buy a newspaper in the airport on the way out of town. And I can read it at home at a later time, as a unique reminder of the vacation or business trip, and to understand a different news narrative than I’m used to at home, albeit news as recent history.
But flying out of Charleston recently, I went to a Hudson newsstand and was told they didn’t sell newspapers. I went to a second Hudson store and asked again. They said they stopped selling newspapers about a year ago and that there were no newspapers in the airport.
I am devastated by this. How is there an airport without newspapers?
A newspaper is the baseline for existence, for providing information needed to accomplish your day and be able to have an understanding of what’s going on in the wider world. I don’t know if other airports are also sans newspapers. It’ something I may research at a later date.
People are getting their news now from apps, or websites, or posts. I realize that. But there is such a large, overwhelming volume of that content. It’s not organized, vetted, and taught. Newspapers have editors. Editors clean it all up. And print it on a limited number of pages.
Not unlimited screen after screen, scrolling down and left and zooming in and over, and turning the phone vertically, horizontally, and back to vertically, all while advertisements keep popping into view. Yes, websites and social platforms have a different outlook that is reflected in their presentation of the news—of the Truth, ultimately. But as I understand it, and have witnessed it, editors try hard to be fair, to be truthful, to be honest, and transparent. They have a mission to transmit Truth to the world. That’s why I got interested in Publishing. That’s why I pursued my degree in Journalism—because Truth, or Beauty, or Understanding—should be curated—curated—and shared, by trusted sources.
Some of the loss of newspapers in the Charleston airport may be attributable to the pandemic and the loss of foot traffic. And assuming many people who used to buy newspapers in the airport would just leave them at their seats or on the floor, maybe now there is a lot less mess to clean up, and less garbage to cart away. An understandable result of not selling paper.
Still, I want my newspaper in the airport. I like the feeling of turning pages and making progress from page to page, section to section. When reading a newspaper on a mobile phone there is no sense of progress, just an endless stream of news and advertisements and words and advertisements and pictures and…advertisements. You never really finish news on a mobile device. And all day long you feel your knowledge is incomplete. You are incomplete because there is more clicking and scrolling you could have done, and you will still do.
When you reach the last page of a newspaper, however, you fold it up and know you are “finished” with the news. You now have a foundation of information to build upon. You go forward, perhaps pursue more news in selected areas, but you’ve graduated from News of the Day 101 and can go forward from there.
I do recognize the benefits of reading the news on a mobile device. When sitting at a table eating a meal, it’s a lot easier and neater to scroll through your phone than to turn pages. As long as you can keep the ketchup off the phone, a phone is a great lunch or dinner reading device.
But when sitting on a rocking chair in the house, or in a hotel lobby—or in an airport or on a plane—a newspaper is the perfect platform to deliver news, and to keep you gainfully occupied.
People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath. (Marshall McLuhan quote, from The Book of Probes)
I don’t think anyone would ever describe a news app like a hot bath. (It’s more like a cold shower drizzling throughout the day.)
So, my trip to Charleston is over. Really over. I have no memento, no week-old newspaper sitting in my computer bag or backpack to retrieve and read through, Charleston in mind. Hudson (News) didn’t allow me that simple pleasure, to have paper in-hand to understand my environs during my trip, nor as a sweet reminiscence reading the paper when back to my normal routine at home, post trip.
Here's an idea, at least for local newspapers. What if you took a local newspaper, and in airports and tourist gift shops, rebranded it not as today’s news in paper form, but as a postcard of a time and place you visited, that you could browse at and review at a later time? More like an elaborate news-related postcard?
See what happens without a newspaper in the airport? If I were browsing my Charleston newspaper now, I would be reminiscing more about the Charleston trip. But no. There was no newspaper. And that leaves me with time on my hand to concoct retro-focused ideas to rescue the newspaper industry.
Hudson—my friend—I’m available to talk.