"Black and White and Re(a)d -- and Maybe Not All Over"
There are two dueling and seemingly mutually contradictory forces colliding in my home right now. On the one hand, my newspaper gets ever thinner every morning. On the other, my mailbox is crammed to its tiny rafters with catalogues. I am mystified: Either print is dead or it is alive and, more than kicking, thriving.
Up until the catalogue deluge that broke through the postal levies in September, I had been hypothesizing about reasons the world seems so relentlessly bleak just now. My leading theory: No advertising to interrupt the IV drip of horrors the first section of The New York Times pumps to our veins each morning.
When I was working on a graduate degree in journalism, the prevailing wisdom was newspapers serve as ‘catalogues’ for readers. First, a bit of news, then oh! My gosh! A shoe sale at Bloomies. Then, a bit more news. Then a great deal on Omaha steaks. Then a film review, and an ad that tells me where that film I want to see is playing. That kind of thing.
The reported death knell of print has consequences: No advertising respite in the paper’s pages. The journalists soldier on, but the break to consider what’s new at Bergdorf’s is missing. Augh. One after another somber, intractable problems demand my attention. All inhale. No exhale.
So, why, if major advertisers don’t believe in newspaper advertising, do they stuff my mailbox with pages and pages of unwanted home accessories, fashion ‘essentials,’ fruit subscriptions and KitchenAid standing mixers? If these messages were in my newspaper, they would command attention, if just to alleviate the gloom. Left to their own devices, they are easy enough to chuck unopened in the paper-recycling bin thoughtfully co-located in my apartment’s mailroom. I’m not the only one. And oh! The trees. On and on these missives arrive (even though I have asked to be taken off the lists, some kept leaking through until the torrent arrived this Fall).
Hey! Catalogue folks: We need a thriving, rigorous fourth estate, now more than ever. Do your part.