We sympathize, although not to the point of believing that newspapers should receive government subsidies. Perhaps Kemmick was in jest, but as we pointed out some time ago, The Nation wasn't when it proposed just that. Exhibit A in why newspapers should be subsidized, including and perhaps especially in Montana, was the fact that Jon Tester became U.S. Senator Jon Tester.
It seems quaint now, with Democrats worrying in this past election cycle only about whether they could get a filibuster-proof majority, but The Fate of Humanity Itself hung in the balance here in Montana just a couple of years ago, and as The Nation describes it, Montana's newspapers delivered the goods for Jon Tester and made the difference in getting him elected. They almost helped deliver Montana for Obama (may his enemies cringe at the fearful sound of his name) in the last election cycle.
So why exactly do we sympathize, especially when the Billings Gazette endorsed Democrats in 5 of the 6 competitive statewide races this election season (and saved its most tepid "well if we have to say it we suppose there's no real reason to vote against him so OK go ahead if you really feel you need to maybe" endorsement for the lone Republican they endorsed -- Brad Johnson?
Well, just call us suckers for a lost cause -- that's what conservatives are good at, right?
It just isn't the same looking at news on the web -- it's that simple. Newspapers go deep in the MH psyche, seated somewhere near the brainstem, going back to the mists of time when the daily paper arrived two days late because it had to be delivered first by rail to the nearest town, and then via rural mail to a certain isolated homestead. A summary of any truly breaking news had already been learned by radio or by watching John Chancellor on a fuzzy black-and-white screen, but it somehow didn't seem like real news until that crackle of an opening grey newspaper said it was so.
In the days before digital recording allowed one to pause a program, or to rewind and listen to a particular piece again, only print news allowed that luxury. You could even cut out the clipping and show it to someone else who didn't get the paper, or even save it. Wow.
Then came the wonders of big city life and the magic of having a daily paper (for a while, even two daily papers -- morning and evening) delivered to one's door. While the sky might be clear, one really didn't know that the world wasn't coming to an end until one opened the morning paper and saw that the headlines were about something mundane like a superpower summit meeting or an energy crisis. Then came settling down over a cup of coffee for a more leisurely perusal. Death to any visitor who suggested turning on the television or radio in the morning -- like drinking alcohol, there is a time before which civilized people just don't do certain things.
Just because -- that's why.
So, while MH has heard many conservatives, like so many old warrior-athletes comparing scars, one-up each other by saying how long ago they cancelled their subscription to the Gazette, we've never been able to bring ourselves to do it, no matter how unhappy we might be over political coverage from time to time.
How, after all, can one be a conservative dinosaur if one doesn't spend a fair amount of time with the news medium that dates back to before the Founding -- for as long as it lasts anyway? This business of canceling newspaper subscriptions and going paperless sounds, well, like another example of undue influence by neoconservatives if you ask us. Besides, the sports section, the hunting and fishing section, and the comics can generally be relied on to be free of bias (or at least of bias that would hurt anyone.)
And how can an unhappy conservative throw the paper down on the table or into the fireplace, calling it a dirty rotten lying rag, if one doesn't actually hold a dirty rotten lying rag in one's hands? We're just too old around here to change -- been doing it for too many decades. We still remember how those dirty rags picked on Nixon over stuff for which they would have given LBJ a free ride. Now you see the point -- closing a browser window emphatically just doesn't have the same satisfying effect. And on TV or the internet, we can go to conservative sites for news -- only in the daily paper is there that complete lack of competition that makes for a good old-fashioned gnashing of teeth.
Still -- subsidize those remaining daily newspapers? You know, the ones who, in terms of circulation, endorsed Obama by a ratio of 3 to 1? (Wonder which ones would get the inside track on the subsidies?) On the face of it, though, it sort of makes sense. After all, another old-fashioned and eminently civilized thing to do is to travel by train, but doing so requires government subsidies -- (even though there aren't enough subsidies to bring a train through the parts of Montana where most people in the state live.)
In a time, however, when those powers that might agitate for subsidizing major newspapers are also agitating for shutting down talk radio stations even though they don't require subsidies to stay afloat, it seems it would take logical gymnastics too painfully twisted even for The Nation.
No, just like so many other good things that have disappeared (like the Eagles with Don Felder in the lineup, the Chicago Symphony with Solti conducting, the good old college football system whereby no-one had a clue who the national champion was some years, or a federal government that only does what the Constitution says it can do,) we just have to enjoy newspapers while they are here, then talk nostalgically about them after they are gone.