Despite challenges, newspapers aren’t dead

Rough Writer

By Michael Johnson -



Newspapers aren’t dead. If you hear such nonsense, don’t believe it.

Maybe I’m old-school. While I’ve embraced the digital side, there’s still nothing quite like holding a newspaper in your hands, easily scanning and flipping pages, and eating your favorite food or drinking your favorite beverage while doing so.

Newspapers were first threatened by radio in the early 20th century, then television in the mid-20th century. Now it’s the internet and social media that pose threats. Newspapers have survived previous challenges. They’ll survive this one.

Tactile. There’s something tangible about a newspaper in your hands that you can’t get anywhere else. Not radio. Not television. Not the internet. Not a smartphone.

You can spread it out on a table. You can spread it out on a floor. You can even spread it out on the hood of your car.

You can take it with you. To the kitchen. To the garage. To the office. To the bathroom.

It’s easy to get. You can find it almost everywhere. At the coffee shop. At the barber shop. At a mechanic’s shop.

You can find newspapers in a box. On a shelf. In a library. At the bottom of a bird cage.

Newspapers can be a protector. You can use it to wrap glassware and porcelain. You can use it on the floor to potty-train your puppy and shield your carpeting from dripping paint. You can use it as cheap insulation. You can use it to cover your plants during a hard frost. You can use it as an umbrella to cover your head from the rain.

Don’t have a potholder? You can use a newspaper to grasp that hot plate from the oven.

A newspaper can even be a weapon. You can roll it up and crush flies, spiders and other creepy crawlies. You can even use for it self-defense (see

You can use it as a torch to find your way through a dark place. You can use it to start a fire and keep warm.

Trying to get someone’s attention outdoors? Roll one into a funnel and use it as a megaphone.

Want to eliminate that odor? Stuff it in your wet shoes. Stuff it in your stale briefcase. Stuff it in your musty suitcase.

Newspapers have been used as props in films and TV series, both large and small. “No Country for Old Men,” “Back to the Future,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Casper,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Modern Family” and many others. It is so widely popular that Ed O’Neill, the Ohio University grad and star of “Married with Children,” for years used it as a prop. In fact, he still uses it as such in his current series, “Modern Family.”

Kurtwood Smith, better known as “Red” on “That 70s Show,” was forced to read the same newspaper for eight seasons. Take a closer next time you see Red with his newspaper.

I once supplied five copies of my former newspaper in New Mexico for a little-known film — “This Must Be the Place,” starring Sean Penn and Frances McDormand. There was only one request from filmmakers: No stories about Obama. The story takes place before his presidency.

Newspapers have been the subject of major films such as “Citizen Kane,” “All The President’s Men,” “Absence of Malice,” “It Happened One Night,” “Spotlight,” “Zodiac,” “State of Play” and, of course, “The Paper.”

Newspapers are a central source of information, even if you get your news from the internet and social media. More often than not, it’s usually the repackaged work of newspapers.

Even TV news regularly sites print sources. Don’t believe me? Watch this clip ( about newspaper journalism by “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver, in which he masterfully, comically and succinctly sums up newspaper journalism’s worth to the world in less than 20 minutes. While most strong language is censored, viewer discretion is still advised.

Newspapers aren’t dead. Print and digital can work together. I’ve illustrated it in two separate paragraphs of this column.

Newspapers will be around much longer than you think. They’re too valuable to let slip away.

Rough Writer

By Michael Johnson

Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.

Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.