by Marge Simon

In high school, like Stephen King and others, I started out on the school paper. I loved working on it. I thrived on deadlines, the crazy fun coming up with headers, getting to do my own features, guest editing the April Fool's edition, all that. And I really got a high from writing my own quirky columns. I won an award for my editorial about astronaut Scott Carpenter, who was from our home town (Boulder, Colorado.) Seeing a newspaper I helped produce, tossed into the school hallways and trod upon was a stiletto heel through my vanity. With ink in my blood, I dreamed I'd be the next Ben Franklin, Sam Clemmons, or Erma Bombeck.

My ambition was to become a journalist. I did very well on scores for college, and planned my career. The day came, and I sat with about five others outside the office of the head of the CU Journalism department. After keeping us about an hour, we were told that the head of the department had gone off on a sabbatical to Australia. (I imagine this put the administration into quite a quandary since apparently nobody at the University of Colorado had known about his departure until that moment.) There were no other advisors available in journalism. We had about ten minutes to decide which department fit our secondary choices.

I chose English Lit. Okay? Okay. Went on with my life and got a teaching degree, which appears to be just as well. Come 2010, here is what's what: Newspapers are in trouble. I don't need to tell you why, do I?

Here are two reports from folks in other states about the newspaper delivery service:

Cassie A.(Missouri) : "We have a new paper delivery person who missed two days this week and one day last week, but hopefully is on track now, although he just threw the paper in the middle of the driveway instead of putting it in the plastic container. I'll call again if he doesn't start putting it there. The paper is so right-wing, I want to cancel it every time the editor writes her vituperative editorial, anyway. But I need it for kindling to start the stove with."

Justin R.: (North Carolina): "I finally stopped newspaper delivery because the guy who delivered it continually threw it in the ditch even though there was a newspaper box at the end of the drive. I called and complained three times, but it did no good, so I stopped it. Saw no reason to pay for it to be delivered and then have to crawl through the blackberry cane in the ditch to retrieve it. Sometimes, it was soaked and couldn't even be gotten to. Wasps now live happily every summer in the newspaper box, and I get newspapers for the wood stove from the library. They always have stacks of the old ones to give away to anyone who wants them."

Now I'm not saying that newspapers are in trouble because they aren't getting properly delivered to subscribers. I ask that you look deeper into the problem. Most folks use the Internet for news, features and games. But the net can't start your wood burning stove or fireplace, can it? Still, I'm afraid "The Fourth Estate" is en route to becoming obsolete. You'll have to find something else to wrap fish in, pack your dishes in when moving, and of course, ignite your fires.