A Typical Evening… Dad Sitting on the couch reading the newspaper – ha!

It’s a classic, Normal Rockwell image: Dad, home from work, relaxing after dinner with a newspaper. Of course in this day and age, who gets their news from a paper?

Most commuters will still grab a paper to keep them busy on their way to work, and dispose of them before arriving at the office (and those cheapies who feast off the papers left behind on subway trains and buses are grateful for that). Those working in business and the markets pay careful attention to the printed word in places like the Wall Street Journal or Barron’s. But by the time you get to work, you’re at your terminal and if you need news it’s up-to-the-minute: you’re listening to the radio, or listening to the news via streaming audio. On your screen, you might have a stock ticker, or a sports ticker. And video feeds are becoming common enough.

All these services are available when Dad gets home, too. But there’s still nothing like reading the daily papers either to start or finish the day, to find out what is going on, especially in the local news. It’s unfortunate that most of the major national news is spoon-fed us by a handful of sources, and this has had an adverse effect on most newspaper content, but the smaller, local papers still cover their areas adequately, at least enough to give you a few moments where you pleasantly say, “hmm!” There’s also a greater more obvious sense of activity when you read the paper, instead of watching the news on TV. While as a media studies professor I am well aware of the ways we actually do interact with electronic media, there is still a little validity to the idea that reading is active while TV viewing is passive.

On my way to my in-laws’ the other night, I saw a headline from a local paper that heartened me: the last movie theater in the neighborhood has been saved (there was a separate article commenting on how all the local politicos were lining up to take credit for saving it). I also read about the sad fate of our local bowling alley (I’ll devote future posts to both these matters), about a few upcoming events, and about a Congressional candidate who wants to have no tolls for local residents over the Expensive Overpriced Bridge that spans the district (our district covers two separate boroughs of New York, joined by the bridge, which costs nine dollars in one direction). The guy could be against everything else I stand for politically (he’s not), but if he could nuke that toll I’ll sign right now!

There was also some family in the news: a cousin’s 18-year-old daughter has won a scholarship for some cooking classes at a noted culinary school; she’s heading on to college in and plans to major in business and finance, and we all suspect she has a very keen interest in running a restaurant some day. She credited her grandmother (my wife’s aunt) for her encouragement and recipes, and said her dad and brother are probably her two biggest fans.

It was a pleasure rediscovered to sit there and read the paper and call out the news that I was reading in it to my fmaily. It also must have made an amusing image for my wife and in-laws: yours truly and my father-in-law, sitting on the couch, reading the local papers. It’s not an image that is very common, but I’m sure the women thought it was cute.

I miss those Sundays we used to spend with the New York Times, reading our favorite sections, tearing our hair out with the crossword. Now of course we spend our Sundays with the girls, and there are no newspapers to be found. But once in a while, I peruse as I wait for a bus or stop at a convenience store on my way to work. And nowadays, some papers have resigned themselves to the fact that the vast majority of their revenues comes from advertising, not sales, so they are giving the papers away free. If that’s not an incentive to read more, I don’t know what is!

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About T.B. White

lives in the New York City area with his wife and two daughters, 6 and 3. He is a college professor who has written essays about Media and the O.J. Simpson case, Woody Allen, and other areas of popular culture. He brings a unique perspective about parenting to families.com as the "fathers" blogger. Calling himself "Working Dad" is his way of turning a common phrase on its head. Most dads work, of course, but like many working moms, he finds himself constantly balancing his career and his family, oftentimes doing both on his couch.