5 Things Newspapers Are Still Good For

The word is out that newspapers are dying. Is there time to appeal that sentence? As I see it, websites can never fulfill these vital newspaper roles:

1. Silly Putty® medium.

This doesn’t work on the iPad®. Besides, AppleCare won’t cover your gumming things up. What? Silly Putty isn’t popular with kids anymore? Those smart-alecks must see the bloody writing on the wall.

2. Ransom note material.

Sure, other media make great terror tools — the TV’s an evil portal in “Poltergeist” (1982), computers prove threatening in thrillers from “War Games” (1983) to “Copycat” (1995) — even a fax machine masks the villain taunting Tim Robbins in Robert Altman’s “The Player” (1992).  But nothing says derangement and premeditation like cutting out letters over weeks’ time to send a clear message. (And what would the Zodiac Killer have done without the San Francisco Chronicle, or the Unabomber, without The Washington Post and The New York Times?)

This online ransom-note tool just doesn’t have the same feel:


Cover of The Economist, Aug 24, 2006

3. Pet care and training. (Dailies as pooping doilies)

This broad category goes beyond wrapping fish and lining bird cages. Anyone who has house-broken a puppy can tell you newspapers are indispensable in their disposability. Also, training a dog to fetch the newspaper is far more serviceable than the stick trick. What are you gonna do with a stick but immediately throw it away again?

Check out this pooch’s time-saving talent!

4. Cost-effective alarm system.

A neighbor’s driveway has not yet reached critical mass.

With crime invading suburban areas, most people these days are careful to curb newspaper delivery when on vacation. (Don’t forget to resume it upon your return home, people!!!) Naturally, papers piling up outside the dwelling may be the only sure sign you are trapped or dead inside and someone ought to call the police.

5. Handy pest control.

Fly-swatter, spider-squisher, ladybug flying carpet (you don’t kill a ladybug, you gently show her the door) … newspapers manage all this and more.

During a storied mouse infestation (not the USB-compatible kind) in our newsroom, glue traps were placed in strategic spots underfoot, bait-enhanced with sprinklings of crumbs from us eating at our desks. Problem was: When a mouse was caught in the Photo Department, it was STILL ALIVE. Page designer Michael B. Smith loves to tell the tale of how he finished it off with a paper stack.

Try doing THAT with a website.