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Newspaper love affair

I love to hold a newspaper in my hand, to feel it as I read it. Paper is, admittedly, not the most effective way to get the news. I have a detailed system for rehabilitating waterlogged copies and my snow blower has had a run in with one or two, but the overall user experience can’t be beat.

I enjoy the sound of the pages turning, and relish the satisfaction of completing a good fold to keep the section crisp. It isn’t a good Sunday unless there’s a little bit of ink smudged on my hands.

I even love the smell, especially when the paper is just a little damp. It instantly puts me in a contemplative mood open to new discoveries and ready to weigh the differing editorial and opinion columns against my own perceptions.

I have a deep connection with my hometown paper, the Hartford Courant, spanning more than 30 years. I’ve sold it door to door, delivered it, advertised in it, been quoted in it and even won a caption contest during a lunch break at work.

The quality has suffered lately, but they’re trying their best. The best in-state political reporting isn’t done by the Hartford Courant anymore, but by a nonprofit news organization founded by their star reporters after a particularly punishing round of layoffs nearly 10 years ago.

Nevertheless, the Hartford Courant is there, in my driveway every Thursday through Sunday. America’s oldest continuously published newspaper, accurate even with their boasting.

Dependable. Unmagnificent. Leaning ever-harder on national wire services and their parent corporation as they reduce the page size and cut down on town-by-town reporting, but still meeting their mission of “providing the news Connecticut needs, reported faithfully and fully, with respect for all and favor to none.”

I appreciate the value of having dedicated professionals lay out the news. When I’m reading news online, I won’t click a story if I don’t know what is about. But, put a paper in front of me and I turn every page, except for the sports section, which bores me.

I’m connected with the news when I hold it — as if I absorb the information into my being.

I trust their editorial judgment to provide the bare foundation of knowledge necessary to be an informed citizen — politics, news, opinion, culture and arts. It keeps me alert of the real estate market and of community events all over the state. The comics remind me not to take things too seriously. The almanac marks the passage of time.

Admittedly, I’ve had my flings with other papers, especially during the years when I lived out of state, but it never felt the same. The front section of The New York Times was required reading in several college classes; reading it every day is one of the best habits I ever developed.

For a few years in my early 20s, it was The New York Times I woke up with every Sunday morning. My appetite back then was voracious. I don’t have the stamina anymore, but sometimes I’ll be at the grocery store, or standing in line at Starbucks, and I’ll see one — notice its girth and ruffled edges, and fondly remember the vigors of youth.

The Hartford Courant was my first and only true newspaper love. Every weekend as a child, I’d race to the corner of my Dad’s condo development to get the Sunday edition before the machine emptied out.

The Sunday edition came with a TV guide, Parade Magazine, color cartoons and ads for every local toy store.

I read it all, with great purpose, catching up on the most important news for a 10-year-old child.

A few years later, Dad would drive my brother and I home at five in the morning to make deliveries on our respective routes. He’d take us from house to house to help save time.

When it snowed and we had the street to ourselves, the contrast with the darkened sky made it look like we were going into hyperdrive aboard the Millennium Falcon. Afterwards, we’d get banana bread french toast and watch the world wake up.

I don’t expect physical newspapers to be around all that much longer and I love the electronic edition that preserves the paper’s natural layout. But there’s nothing better on a Sunday morning than a fresh pot of coffee and the world in your driveway — assuming the bag hasn’t leaked and gotten it wet.

— Chris Gaffney

Chris Gaffney operates uncommondiscourse.com, a website mining the intersection between creative nonfiction, memoir and humor. He’s an accomplished public speaker who has performed at the Out of Bounds Comedy festival and won numerous Toastmasters speech contests. He holds a B.A. in writing from Ithaca College and a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He currently works in marketing and resides in Wallingford, Connecticut, with his wife, Jenny.

Reflections of Erma