I have written about Newspapers once before from my island (Days 40&41). Caught in a wash of sentimental nostalgia, I bemoaned what the pandemic had stripped from the publications. Now on the backside of the alphabet, I am trying to present a more positive face. Let me talk about what newspapers have given during the shutdown.

I am a huge fan of printed newspapers. My son thinks I’m crazy to rely on what may be a dying product, but there are substantive pleasures to the dailies even in normal times. I like the ease of reading, the fact that you can enjoy them without constant pop-up advertisements, the fact that you can fold and shape them to fit your reading needs. I even love the way you can crumple and tear out bits of them in anger (Boston Globe readers will appreciate the number of times I have mutilated Dan Shaughnessy’s picture).

Lately, the newspapers have included delightful surprises that have been a source of small and much-needed diversion.

The Dallas Morning News (an ‘okay’ paper in my book – good reporting, a bit parochial, far too much Cowboy coverage) has offered an occasional puzzle book with their Sunday edition. Their puzzles already are better than most and they have a good skein of comics, but the puzzle book imparts lingering entertainment. When the real news starts to distress me too much (usually after three or four headlines) and the Cowboys section (I mean the Sports section) is digested, it is nice to be able to escape into the orderliness of the grid.

The New York Times has one-upped them. In balance to their stark and often brutal coverage of the pandemic, the Times has added small doses of levity. I was delighted one weekend to discover a puzzle section to augment the already ritual puzzles that the brilliant but lately unreadable Magazine contains. (Unfortunately, my wife discarded the book before I had a chance to tackle the Mega puzzle that took up the two center pages.) Each week they offer a card game for families, encouraging positivity and mindfulness. And this week, the Times presented a special section on Joy – how staff members find simple thrills in an otherwise dreary time. Essays about re-growing scallions or having appointments self-cancel emphasize the pleasure that even the smallest things in life contain. In presentation, these lovely essays are in themselves an anodyne.

Before long, we may all go back to scrolling news on our phone or snatching headlines off Twitter. While we have the time, we might just savor the gentle pleasures that the printed dinosaurs offer us.


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