Monday, May 29, 2023

“I love the smell of newsprint in the morning” by Laurie O’Halloran


Six mornings a week it hits my front door with a familiar thud, usually around 6 a.m. That thud used to be a lot louder, but it still signals my morning newspaper has arrived. Time to get up.

I open the front door to grab what is now two newspapers – the Hamilton Spectator and the National Post – bound together with an elastic band. If it’s raining, they’ll be wrapped in a blue plastic bag.  Sadly, it’s a pretty light load these days but I still look forward to spreading them out on my kitchen island and scanning the day’s top headlines.

My fascination with newspapers began with my father. Watching him pore over the Globe and Mail – pipe in mouth and coffee in hand – was a comforting sight each morning. He would bitch about the government, cheer on his favourite sports teams and closely examine the stock index. For my part, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to read a newspaper that didn’t have comics. Or Dear Abbey. The only useful part of the Globe were the horoscopes, but even they seemed written for ‘executives' and were of little value to a girl who simply wanted to know if that cute guy in biology class was going to ask her out.

As I matured, however, so did my reading preferences. By my teens, I was reading the feature articles and book reviews in the Saturday edition. It was also the beginning of my lifelong love affair with obituaries. I couldn’t resist reading every single one, still can’t. Some are beautiful, a few are funny, many make me cry, and all provide a fascinating look inside people’s lives.

Beloved journalist Christie Blatchford

By the end of high school, I had decided to study journalism and that was when I started reading the entire front section of the Globe. In college, I developed preferences for certain columnists and couldn’t wait to read their opinions. The late Christie Blatchford was my absolute favourite. With her sharp wit and insightful observations, she made me laugh … and think differently.

The one section that remained untouched until my 30s was the Report on Business (ROB). That changed when I made my first investment and I started following the stock market. Like reading obituaries, studying stock prices became an addiction. Before it all went online, I depended on ROB to feed my addiction.

In my 50s, I discovered crossword puzzles, and my dependency on newspapers deepened. Unlike the news or stock prices, however, the crossword could wait. I would often set it aside to savour late in the day, usually with a cocktail before dinner.

The Globe had become my daily fix when, suddenly, I was faced with a serious dilemma. Conrad Black launched the The National Post. As crazy as it sounds, I had always had a secret crush on Mr Black. I didn’t care for his politics but I was in awe of his writing ability and spectacular vocabulary. What to do? The Globe and I had been together for decades and we were comfortable in our relationship. But sometimes change can be good. Was it time to break up? Fortunately, the decision was made for me when Christie Blatchford jumped ship and joined The Post. I cancelled my Globe subscription, called the National Post, and never looked back.

Of course my kids think I’m terribly outdated. (To enhance my dinosaur status, I also insist on reading hard cover print books!) Their phones are their sole source of news and information. If it’s not on a screen, they’re not interested. But there is something so detached and impersonal about screens. And research shows more information is absorbed and retained after reading the printed word. Plus, newspapers have always provided a tactile record of our history. War and peace, births and deaths, everything is right there in black and white, ready to be clipped and saved for future generations. Those clippings are a catalogue of the milestones of our lives.

The Post and The Spectator are now shadows of their former selves. I fear the end is near and am already dreading the day I hold the last print newspaper in my ink-stained hands.


Laurie O’Halloran is the former publisher/owner of Home Style Magazine, a national trade magazine for kitchenware retailers. She retired two years ago and moved back to her hometown of Burlington, Ontario, where she indulges in her love of travel, golf, jazzercise, jigsaw puzzles and honing her writing skills so she can one day complete that book.

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.


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