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globetrotting
the pleasures of a hometown paper
by michelle von euw
4.14.08
news

As far back as I can remember, mornings in the house where I grew up always focused around the Boston Globe. We were a newspaper family; whether it was Mike Barnicle or Will McDonough or Jim Davis or James Carroll or Bella English or Anne Landers, we were always reading somebody over our Cheerios and orange juice.

It was one of the absolutes of my childhood: we’d wake to find the Globe on the front steps (or later, after my dad befriended the delivery man, folded neatly on the table inside the porch), holding all the news we’d ever need, and then some.

Little pieces of the Globe made their way around the house: the Sunday magazine section could be found in the sunroom or on the sink in the bathroom, folded open to the crossword section, covered with my dad's pen marks. Tacked to our bulletin board in the kitchen were coupons for the Science museum, tips from the Chatters section, editorials about the latest social injustices to raise my parents’ ire.

At the height of my teenage obsession with the Red Sox, my bedroom door was covered with pictures, headlines, and stories all taken from the sports page. (During one our epic childhood fights, my brother’s greatest strike was to take a black marker to the faces of Roger Clemens, Ellis Burks and Todd Benzinger, ruining my carefully constructed collage.)

I learned to really read from our hometown newspaper, to pour myself into the words and their meanings. I admired the way news stories would flow, the who, the what, the when, the where, the why. I latched onto the bold words on the editorial pages, no matter whether I agreed with the writer’s opinion or not. I delighted in the reviews of plays and films and restaurants I’d never see. I familiarized myself with the columnists and the reporters, and imagined myself one day in their positions, sitting at their desks in front of their fancy type writers, filing stories from South Africa or the Soviet Union or the Capitol building as an international political reporter.

My love affair with the hometown paper wasn’t always so smooth. I tell myself it was my affection for the Globe, my desire to call myself an employee of that empire, that made me become a paper girl for three long, wretched years, but really, it was the money. I’ve blocked much of that experience from my memory: the waking up at six a.m. and groggily stumbling around the block, lamely tossing papers on the neighbor’s porches. Delivering the paper in the rain and the sleet and the snow and the other charming New England weather, the thin plastic bags provided to us barely a ever a match for the elements. My father was the MVP of our paper routes: without his dedication, his expert folding and tossing techniques, or his ability to guilt non-paying customers into submission, my brother and I would have quit within two weeks. The carrot dangling in front of us was the college scholarship the Globe awarded every kid who lasted three years on his or her route; you can bet the Von Euws both quit the first day of year four.

For a paper girl, Sundays were the worst day, but once I no longer was responsible for delivering them, the Sunday newspaper was the best. The loud clunk a newspaper makes as it lands on the kitchen table is inexplicably satisfying, and it signals long hours ahead of being lost in a myriad of topics that would be forgotten by dinner.

I went to college with the goal of becoming a newspaper reporter, but that never quite panned out. As a freshman in Washington D.C., my roommates and I subscribed to the Washington Post, but I never quite got that paper the way I did my hometown one. Perhaps my expectations had been too far raised: as a student of Woodward and Bernstein, I expected the Post to blow me away with its political intrigue, but by 1992, it was all decidedly average. Another thing about the Post that surprised me: politics were so much a part of the culture, they seeped their way into all other sections of the newspaper. I was a political science junkie, and yet, I didn’t want to read about lobbyists in the Style section. The Post became a bit of a burden, something I should be reading, and not something I wanted to read.

My experience with the New York Times was even more of a disappointment. I’d been conditioned to admire and respect the paper of record, but frankly, the Washington editions left me rather disappointed. I didn’t care all that much about Brooklyn or Queens or the Upper East Side. Worse, I couldn’t stand the New York take on suicide rates in South Boston or the senate race in North Carolina. Besides, the sports page, to be frank, sucked.

The hard truth was, I was provincial, and even though at the age of 22 I still felt as if I could live anywhere, do anything, I would only do it if I didn’t have to read a local newspaper. And so began my slow divorce from newsprint on my hands.

I get my news online now, and several times a week, visit boston.com, the modern home of my childhood newspaper. Lots of times, the stories are the same as the ones delivered to my parents’ doorstep, but my reading of the paper is more directed. I no longer stumble across the small, unexpected pleasures of an article on Vermont farming or more effective ways to build a transmission.

Last Sunday, I spent the weekend at the house I grew up in, and as my parents went to church and my husband snored upstairs, I found myself once again engaged in the pleasures of the Boston Sunday Globe. The looks of the paper had changed since my childhood, but not all that significantly. Here were the circulars from building 19. Here was the thick Sports section, with columns by my childhood idol Jackie MacMullan and brilliant descriptions of the Kansas/Carolina game and an entire page devoted to random notes from the baseball world. Here was a full-page opinion piece, questioning the ethics of local writer Ben Mezrich’s approach to nonfiction in Bringing Down the House. Here was the beautiful Boston Globe Magazine, filled with letters to the editor decrying an article from last week’s edition, practical yet entertaining advice from Miss Conduct, and a Coupling piece about hotel room sex.

And here was the real estate section. I folded it open to the neighborhood I’d once delivered papers to, and began to circle listings. Once again, the Boston Globe was a conduit for my dreams.


ABOUT MICHELLE VON EUW

Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

more about michelle von euw

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COMMENTS

tracey kelley
4.14.08 @ 6:52a

Once again, a delightful love letter to Boston from 'Chelle.

There are few things that surpass the Sunday ritual of paper reading. This week, I had some leftover New York Times (picked up from a newsstand to read over lunch a few days ago) to add to my scant and predictable DSM Register. I read the Register to have a general weekly update of what's happening in the city, and there are two writers that cast a fantastic view on the human condition, but there is little else I enjoy about it.

Reading the Times reminded me of that. Even the feel of a "big city" newspaper is different. But unless I pay $7 to have a metro paper delivered every Sunday, I'll have to be content with scrounging. It's just one of those things you get used to when you live in a middlin' city like DSM.

sandra thompson
4.14.08 @ 8:24a

The newspapers of our childhood will probably always remain our favourite papers. When I lived in NYC I loved the Times. When I lived in Miami, I loved the morning Herald and the afteroon News (now defunct). I can't say the same for the Orlando Slantinel. But I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Jacksonville Times-Union. I've been a lifelong Time Magazine subscriber because I grew up reading it. I remember my journalism professor saying, "Look is for people who can't read and Time is for people who can't think," and then proceeding to give us free subscriptions to Time for a year.

adam kraemer
4.14.08 @ 6:16p

Yeah. There's definitely a soft spot in my heart for both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the more local Montgomery County Record.

russ carr
4.14.08 @ 11:28p

Sandra's disdain for the Orlando paper of record is my wistful fondness. I'd already decided to go to J-school when I completed high school in Orlando, and the Sentinel was one of the reasons why. Years later, when I was teaching newspaper layout, I held the Sentinel up as an example of modern, forward thinking design. It's to my great chagrin that I never landed a job there, but I still have friends on staff, and copies of historic front pages from it (and the Baltimore Sun, another paper bound to our family) adorn my office walls.



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