Thursday, December 2, 2010

extra extra

I get the Los Angeles Times delivered every day. Yes, the actual, physical, made-of-pulped-trees-and-crappy-ink newspaper. It's there on my patio every morning, bundled in thin plastic, an orphaned medium left on my doorstep. I bring it inside, unwrap it, and there's the day's news: urgent headlines arrayed around a central photo, a box below the fold to draw you deeper into the paper (a 20th-century hyperlink, if you will), maybe an ad wrapped around section A, obscuring the left third of what you actually want to see (a 20th-century pop-up window). I almost never get through all of it, but I always get through some of it, at the very least the front page. I love this quaint, old-timey news and coupon delivery system, and although I do get much of my news online like everybody else, I still enjoy the newspaper as a physical object---the smell of it, the weight of it, the inky residue left on your hands from holding it. It's a small pleasure, but it's the small pleasures you'll miss the most when they're no longer available to you. The many recent reports about the decline of American newspaper readership have got me thinking that my morning paper's days may be numbered.

I worry that the time is not all that far off when the daily newspaper will have officially outlived its usefulness to enough of the country that it will make better financial sense for the parent companies to stop the presses forever. It feels like that sad day might very well happen in my lifetime; I imagine that my daughter will grow up knowing the newspaper only as an historical fact, like 8-track tapes.

So what can I do about it? Write a letter to the editor? Inspire a group of plucky teenagers to start their own paper? Well, no and not yet. There's almost nothing I can do personally for this beleaguered industry. I can, however, honor them in the manner that artists throughout history have honored those they love, admire, or are totally indifferent about but whom they are paid to honor. I've decided to devote a year to making the daily paper my muse, and I will draw my muse's face---the front page---over and over again, every day in 2011. And I will post the results, good, bad, or ugly, every day on this blog. And I will, without a doubt, learn a valuable moral lesson from this exercise, one I hope to pass on to a group of plucky teenagers who are thinking about starting their own paper. And I'm confident that that lesson will be "Get off my lawn, you damn kids."

Tune in every day for a new drawing. If you have questions about the project or newspapers or life in general, send 'em in and I'll do my best to answer them.