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    Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Newsprint ain’t dead in this office.

03 Aug 2010

Those of us in the newspaper business have got a dilemma on our hands. And no it’s not the imminent fall of print journalism. That would be too heavy a topic for this grizzled reporter.

My problem lies in the leaning tower of newspapers by my desk; the fact that my livelihood takes up space and I can’t seem to part with it. In no other area of my house is this more apparent than in my office, where I’ve stockpiled years of newspapers, notebooks and other reporter debris.

Debris! All of it!

If you were to throw a lit match into my office the room would go up in flames.

Imagine if I worked for a daily.

Now add the fact that I have a collection of newspapers from various cities and towns I’ve traveled through: The Idaho Statesman. The Oregonian. The Kansas City Star. The Hannibal Courier-Post. The Ozark County Times. The Chicago Tribune. The Logan Herald Journal. The Denver Post. Estes Park Trail Gazette. Mountain Valley News. Colorado Springs Independent. The Buffalo News. The Chattanoogan. The Clarion Ledger. The Arkansas Times. Asheville’s Mountain Xpress. (They’re all stacked in that white chest next to where the pug is sleeping.)

I haven’t even counted the European newspapers I keep in a Rubbermaid bin in my bedroom closet.

Some people buy souvenir shot glasses. I buy newspapers. Newspapers take up more room.

They were beginning to choke me. The dust was making me sneeze. The dust was making the pug sneeze. The leaning tower of newspapers was starting to resemble something from out of A&E’s Hoarders. Jesus, that show makes my skin crawl. I dare you to watch just episode and not purge your life of every inanimate object.

If my living quarters ever got so bad that you had to tunnel your way through a labyrinth of high-rising shit to find me (undoubtedly dressed in a floral print muumuu), I’d urge you to light the whole house on fire.

You ever noticed that the hoarder is usually married to a seemingly normal person?

Sample dialogue from an episode of Hoarders:

Seemingly normal spouse: “I don’t know what to do. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even use my bathroom. Betty’s filled it with McDonald’s Happy Meal toys.”

Betty: “But they’re in sandwich baggies. It’s not like they’re everywhere.”

Seemingly normal spouse: “They’re everywhere. They’re stuffed inside the toilet.”

Betty: “We’ve got a perfectly fine bathroom in the basement.”

Seemingly normal spouse: “The basement is filled with Betty’s collection of false teeth and brunette wigs. Betty, you know I can’t use the downstairs toilet.”

Betty: “But I need those false teeth.”

Seemingly normal spouse: “You have all your teeth.”

Betty: “One day I might not.”

You get my point. That show drives me bananas.

Anyway. My weakness lies in newspapers and notebooks, although notebooks are far easier to throw out. I don’t know why I even bother to save notebooks for more than two years. After six months, I rarely reference them. Plus, they’re filled with nearly illegible scrawl that I can only decipher in the immediate days following an interview.

FYI: I take all my notes by hand. Tape recorders give me anxiety and I’m not a fan of bringing a laptop to interviews. So notebooks it is. Not reporter pads either. I like a good chunky notebook. Typically, I buy small five-subject notebooks from CVS. Why CVS? Because there’s a CVS on every corner in Florida and by the time I realize I’ve used up a notebook, I’m on my way to an interview with five minutes to spare.

I go through one five-subject notebook every three weeks. My office looks like a high school locker.

And have I mentioned the press passes and lanyards?

Joe insisted I keep his. I told him no way was I gonna keep his and toss mine, thus the lanyards were spared.

If you ever see me on Hoarders drowning in lanyards, blame my husband.

PS. Note the misspelled last name.

PPS. Hey Heelya! I’m on the phone with you in the top picture.

PPPS. In case you didn’t click the embedded link in the first graph of this post, here’s an Onion newscast that touches on hoarding and the death of print journalism.

11 Responses to “Newsprint ain’t dead in this office.”

  1. 1
    RO Says:

    I JUST tossed my speech books from college. I kept thinking I might look something up one day-Guess I forgot about the internet!

  2. 2
    Misty Fallon Says:

    I agree with you regarding the Hoarders/”Buried Alive” show. It’s disgusting! Especially the ones where people not only refuse to get rid of junk and such, but the ones that actually keep GARBAGE…like, real honest-to-goodness leftover Big Mac wrappers and S**T. Oh My God, It’s Horrible!

    And I too am guilty of keeping papers and such. Actually, I have quite a few of the Buffalo News stories following the 9-11 attacks. Also, I’ve kept many of my High School essay’s and writing assignments. I occasionally like to look back and see if any of my opinions have changed (i.e. Contemporary Issues Essays), or if my thoughts have changed regarding certain books we were assigned to write about or events in history. Secretly I used to think, that maybe when I was an adult, I would publish a book of essays. Kind of a “through-the-years” type thing; a view into the life of a teenager turned adult and how our thoughts and beliefs change as we grow older. Those compilation type books always seem to go over well and you don’t really have to try to write a whole novel or anything. Just maybe a blurb here or there explaining why you wrote a specific essy or something. Lol…I guess i figured it was a possibly easy way to get rich. Ya know…write a book, but not really. ;)

  3. 3
    Ricci Says:

    My two cents:

    Give yourself some kind of quota – like two articles a month. Cut those out, put them in some kind of binder, and throw out the rest.

    I’m with Joe. Keep the press passes/lanyards. For sure. I always use them as office decor. Semi-related to this, I’ve kept all of me and Mbaye’s airline/railroad ticket stubs since my first flight to Dakar. My friend Kate’s cousin makes bracelets out of these, and now I’m excited someday in the future to make a bracelet for the baby with the plane ticket stubs that mark my trip to Senegal, Mbaye and I’s first tript to America together, etc. I don’t see why press passes can’t be made into bracelets, too?

  4. 4
    Sara Says:

    The lanyards, when taken out of the plastic, would make a really cool collage. You could frame it and put it in your office….

    I have a large collection of bridesmaids dresses that I’ll never wear again but can’t get rid of. Any ideas on what to do with those?

  5. 5
    heidi Says:

    Ro: I have a box of old notebooks from my Buffalo State journalism classes stored in a closet at my parent’s house. I opened them for the first time when I was home last month. They’re insanely organized. My penmanship is perfect. It looks like a font. As I was paging through them I thought, no wonder I made no friends in college, I was so busy being Lisa Simpson, taking painfully perfect notes, overachieving and generally being a bore.

    Misty: I cannot bring myself to watch an episode of Hoarders. My mom had it on when I was home recently. I was cringing the whole time. I feel about hoarders the way some people feel about snakes. I think it’s nice that you’ve held onto old notebooks. There’s nothing wrong with revisiting past perspectives. I do it all the time with this blog. Introspection is good for the soul.

    Ricci: EXCELLENT advice. The next time I get ambitious in the cleaning/organizing/throwing out department, I’ll attack the chore with scissors. Thank you. I’d love to see how these ticket bracelets work. Does your friend’s cousin have an etsy shop or a website?

    Sara: If you’re handy with a sewing machine I’d recommend deconstructing those dresses into fun, funky cocktail dresses that one might wear with leggings. OR –– (now this I’ve done myself) you can cut the dresses into squares and make a quilt out of them. How do you feel about fancy throw pillows? That’s a fairly easy DIY project.

  6. 6
    Rojerio Says:

    Keep everything and let it pile up in stacks. I agree with Ricci everyonceandawhile throw out a newspaper or two. That’s the best approach I’ve found.

    ps – that’s the nicest collection of Sarasota Observers I’ve ever seen.

  7. 7
    Pat Horwell Says:

    I purged when I made the big move from NY to FL. And it WAS painful. Of course I worked for np for a good 6 or 7 years down here, too. But I have learned. Saving clips, my dear – not entire issues. (Except for some special issues. LOL). Good luck!

  8. 8
    Kat Hughes Says:

    Is this where I find the I-Keep-Old-Periodicals-Anonymous meeting?
    Hi. My name is Kat. And I like to keep old periodicals.
    Some people have a problem with newspapers, sure that’s fine – but my vice requires bindings and volumes of slickly designed, thick glossy paper.
    I’m addicted to saving magazines.
    Heidi, I loved this. Although I think it’s funny Joe likes to save something too. Adam’s rule is “If you haven’t used it in a year, throw it out.”
    I ignore him. This is why I have stacks of magazines on the coffee table, stacks under my night stand, stacks next to my dresser, even a secret stack I hide from Adam of really old ones I’m saving for posterity.
    But he refuses to get rid of any book. Even his Russian Literature book from college. Yeah – like he’s ever cracking that one open again.
    Yet I digress – I agree with your reader Pat, that moving helps, but after moving four times in two years, it certainly hasn’t solved our dilemma.
    Not even the job of buying more moving boxes can surmount the allure of keeping the printed page.

  9. 9
    Megan Biram Says:

    Put your favorite stories in plastic sleeves in a binder. Get the PDFs off the server & keep them on a USB. Recycle the newspapers. I promise, you’ll feel lighter.

  10. 10
    Tabitha (From Single to Married) Says:

    That looks like my husbands half of the room where we have our “office” (also known as our den, our family room, and our library. What can I say, we have a small house.) He constantly has a huge (like three feet tall – I’m not even kidding) stack of newspapers. I ask him if he reads them and he insists he does. I believe him too since he has to read them for his job (something about staying abreast of current events, etc.). I’ve learned to live with the stacks as he goes through them about once a month and purges them. What can you do? I’d rather him have them and be well-educated then not. :)

  11. 11
    Tam Says:

    I’m with ya, Heids. For the past five years, I’ve been stuffing all my papers in this old wicker chest I keep in the guest room. I covered it with one of those soft, plush throws and put it in front of the window, where my cat spends about 90 percent of his time. It’s getting to the point where I’m forced to open the lid, shove this week’s paper in and close it before they all start to pour out and I’m covered in a sea of black and white.

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