My print edition superpower

When I walk around our neighborhood I see very few copies of our local newspaper on sidewalks, porches, and front lawns. We subscribe because it’s a lifelong habit, and because we like to support local journalism, and in my case because it’s a welcome reprieve from a long day of screentime.

This archaic habit has also, weirdly, become a kind of superpower. From time to time I meet people who are surprised when I know facts about them. These facts are public information, so why should it be surprising that I know them? Because they appear in the print edition of the newspaper. Consider the man in this photo.

We were out for a Sunday morning walk, carrying the newspaper, when we saw him in a cafe. We had just read an article about Whiskerino, the annual contest of fancy beards and mustaches in Petaluma. And here was the guy whose photo was featured in the article!

That was a nice coincidence, but the kicker is that he had no idea his picture was in the paper. Not being of newspaper-reading age, and not having friends of newspaper-reading age, he had to depend on elders to alert him. I guess we got to him before his parents did.

When a similar thing happened this weekend, it occurred to me that this could be a good marketing strategy for newspapers. Do you want to wield an information superpower? Do you want to amaze people by knowing facts that they can’t imagine you could possibly know? Subscribe to the print edition of your local newspaper!

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7 thoughts on “My print edition superpower

  1. Hmm, since I use gmail/contacts, Google should be able to give me a GoogleAlerts feed of everyone in my Contacts list.

      1. If google gave you, it would Do the Job of telling you about (local) people you know.

  2. My daughter was actually very disappointed when it turned out her WaPo sub would be digital, not paper. We’re not in a paper distro zone for them, though — the only paper that’s delivered reliably is WSJ, and no thank you to that.

    The problem’s really that few paper papers are actually real local newspapers anymore. I live in a state that’s been eviscerated by Gannett, so even if you buy what used to be the serious real paper, it’s really just a broadsheet or two of local-features-mostly wrapping for USA Today, where the most serious writing you’ll get now is AP. Lyz Lenz discusses the problem nicely with Allison Hantschel here:

    I did try subscribing to an actual local independent paper — the one that recently fired Lyz for annoying our governor by, you know, doing reporting and criticism and all — but it’s not worth the paper, unfortunately.

    Now if you want a serious superpower, wander around an airport with a working knowledge of payphone use. A few years ago I had a whole crowd of millennials around me as I tried to help a girl whose cellphone had died and needed to get in touch with someone. You don’t think about how many steps are involved and how crucial it is to get them in the right, nonintuitive order until someone really needs them.

    GenZ’s also fascinated by film cameras, turns out. I’m a hero whenever I wander around with my Leica M2. Oh, and turntables, too. A few years ago I bought and refurbished a Pioneer stroboscopic direct-drive turntable and then was foolish enough to believe it’d be mine, and not the domain of the teenager living in my house. Came home to find my old records all over the floor and detritus from girls having been over. Wound up getting the teenager her own kid-quality turntable & speakers. High fidelity’s for closers.


    1. Nope, I am unable to grow such a magnificent beard.

      I am annoyed, though, at the poor interaction among WordPress, Twitter, and my personal photos that I stubbornly continue to want to host on my own site. Seems like it’s harder than it used to be to get the right previews to happen.

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