Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Newspaper Etiquette

system of rules and conventions that regulate social and professional behaviour. In any social unit there are accepted rules of behaviour upheld and enforced by legal codes; there are also norms of behaviour mandated by custom and enforced by group pressure. An offender faces no formal trial or sentence for breach of etiquette; the penalty lies in the disapproval of other members of the group. (Encyclopedia of Britannica, 2008)

I consider myself a newspaper purist.  I have always enjoyed a good newspaper . . . though I have rarely lived in an area with good newspapers.  Despite that, I still enjoy newspapers and attempt to peruse the newspaper with a sense of purpose and decorum. Because of this I believe that there is a sense of  etiquette which one must practice when reading the tomb.

Too often etiquette is associated with those social skills that we teach children as they grow up.  Such etiquette involves teaching children proper manners like when it is appropriate to burp and when it is not.  I'm all for this sort of etiquette, but I think it goes beyond the mere rules of table manners and social graces.  I like that it also encompasses the "norms of behaviour mandated by custom and enforced by group pressure" according to the writers of the Encyclopedia of Britannica.  I like that because my understanding of "newspaper etiquette" falls under this broad definition and understanding.  There is a proper way to read and handle a newspaper! 

The first rule of newspaper etiquette is that it must be remembered that the newspaper is read by more than one--there are others beside the first person up who reads the paper.  Because there are others who read the newspaper the practice of the Boys and Girls Scouts should be practiced--leave it better than you found it.  True, that involves camp grounds but at the same time a newspaper should not be any worse than it was after one reading than when it was delivered.  

This first rule of newspaper etiquette is often broken at our house much to my dismay.  Because I am the first one out of the house each morning I am unable to read the paper before I leave.  This leaves the paper open to anyone and everyone else in the house who wants to read it.  The wife often tears it apart and removes the section with the daily crossword puzzle.  The son grabs the sports page.  Thankfully the dogs don't really care for the paper.  What is left behind is a pile of paper in every conceivable arrangement but the one in which it was deliver.  Way too often I have had to do a scavenger hunt to find all the paper before reading it.  This is sacrilegious--it is newspaper blasphemy--a crime punishable by having to watch Fox News for an eternity!  Despite my most biblical laments this behavior does not change--not even disapproval works!  

The second rule of newspaper etiquette involves the actual reading of the newspaper.  There is a certain way in which a newspaper should bed read and it is as follows: the funny papers, the front page and national/international news, the local news, the special sections, then the sports section, and the rest can go into the trash.  That is the proper way in which I read a newspaper . . . unless it is college football season.  In that case I read the funnies first, sports second, and the rest in proper order as described above.  The only problem I have with this is that the local big city paper, we won't name any names Billings Gazette, cannot decide where to put the comics.  This really screws up the way that one reads a paper when the paper's publisher seems to think it should be a game of "hide and seek" when it comes to the daily comics.  Our newspaper likes to print the comics on a page that is removable (I guess that is for easier reading in the library of most homes--the Thunder Dome).  The problem is that that page can be in just about any section of the paper.  It is never in the same section two days in a row.  It is always a "search and destroy" mission which leaves the paper in disarray and breaks the first rule of newspaper etiquette.  This should be punishable by having to listen to Rush Limbaugh non-stop until one's ears bleed (that should only take about thirty minutes).  The comics are sacred and the local paper treats them like a holy grail that must be sought for enlightenment--shame on them!

The third rule of newspaper etiquette in my world (located between my ears) is that nothing should be removed from any section before everyone has had a chance to read that section.  There is nothing worse than starting a story on the first page of a section and turning to finish it on another page only to discover that it had disappeared into thin air!  The primary culprit of this breach of newspaper etiquette is the wife.  The wife does the daily crossword puzzle and in order for her to do it she has to remove it from the newspaper.  Most often it is removed from a section of the paper from which I usually find the most interesting article--especially on Thursdays when it is in the "outdoors" section.  The wife has no qualms about ripping the crossword puzzle out of any section to accomplish the task of completing it.  Then, to rub my nose in it, knowing good and well she is breaking the third etiquette rule, she asks me to help answer the clues for the words on her crossword puzzle!  All I really want to do is to finish the article on how much wood a woodchuck can chuck in the outdoor section, not answer some cryptic word puzzle.

Other minor rules of newspaper etiquette are: remember that the "letters to the editor" are opinions of people who have way too much free time on their hands and need to learn to write blogs--they are opinions, NOT FACTS.  Read them for the entertainment they are.  The classifieds make great starters for the fire pit and to line bird cages.  Advertisements are the last thing I want to read.  The religion section is slanted--usually to one point of view and heaven help those who oppose it.  Pictures are worth a thousand words, but rarely do they tell the whole story.  Don't touch your glasses while reading the paper--newspaper ink is a pain to get off of lenses.  Dear Abby, Heloise, and Ask the Doctor, along with the daily television guide are always on the back side of the comics--which no one can find easily.

But I guess I shouldn't complain if no one chooses to follow my proper rules of newspaper etiquette.  Since I have started working so early in the day I have discovered that there is an internet version of the local paper which I can read . . . and, so I do.  I read it five days of the week on the computer.  The only thing missing is the comics, but the computer has also been gracious enough to provide me with several sites which have actually broaden my selection of funnies.  True, there are about three that I can only get in the actual printed newspaper, but otherwise I pretty much get them all emailed to me on a daily basis.  Now I am discovering that I pretty much can read the whole newspaper online, it isn't quite the same but it gets the job done.  If it had a crossword puzzle online with it I would probably quit subscribing to it.  True, I do miss the paper feeling in my hands.  But most of all, I miss being able to gripe and complain that someone has messed up MY paper everyday--especially when that last little bit of the article is on the backside of the crossword puzzle!  Oh well!

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