On a train, wiling away the hours in a café or on a park bench, a newspaper completes the experience; it relaxes and edifies. They are cheap, portable entertainment and our choice of broadsheet or tabloid defines us.
A travel guide to pubs in Ireland named “Fitzgerald’s advices that when arriving in a new town, buy the local paper, go to the pub and read it. That is the best way to gauge the community and discover what is going on.
Of course you could just buy everyone a drink; though a little more expensive, you would really find out what is going on.
I was in Paris last week but my grasp of French doesn’t allow me to read what is going on, so I thought I would do one better and go visit the headquarters of the International Herald Tribune (IHT) to see what was going on for myself.
I love the IHT and its nostalgic feel, as if it was from another era, when a paper was read from front to back throughout the day. With its classical layout and fonts, it is a classy accessory for any gentlemen. It even folds neatly into a rectangle and slides into a blazer pocket.
I have been an avid reader for years and was perplexed when the editor announced a few years back that the box sports scores were to disappear. I find the historical snippets on page two – “100, 75 and 50 Years Ago – absorbing. I remember the arrival of a color front page and I find the “Globalist column invaluable, “The Frequent Traveler intriguing and Maureen Dowd’s “think pieces hilarious.
It was a thrill to be riding the Paris Metro out to Pont de Neuilly and strolling Avenue Charles de Gaulle, searching for this 120-year old publishing institution, as the adrenalin clipped at my heels as if I was approaching an ancient Greek oracle.
Greek born Helen Konstantopoulos welcomed me, wearing a light yellow top that she may have picked up on her recent visit to Daily News Egypt offices in Cairo, though it was from her native Montreal, she told me. “Around the globe, newspaper circulation figures are falling,
Konstantopoulos, IHT’s business development director, said, “except in the Middle East, which is a booming market.
“There are five or six English language newspapers in the Gulf and the growth is being driven by real estate advertising. The Khaleej Times in Dubai is relaunching if you are looking for a job and Abu Dhabi is pouring money into The National, Konstantopoulos said.
So we chatted “off the record about the newspaper business in the Middle East and told our expatriate stories of how we ended up living abroad. She was trying to get to Greece 17 years ago after college and got stuck in Paris. Me, I was also looking for a home, and as Paulo Coelho journeyed to the Pyramids in “The Alchemist, I too found my treasure in what would have seemed the unlikeliest of places five years ago.
When I arrived in Cairo, the IHT was only available a day late. It was also stamped by an airline with, “Complementary Copy – Not For Re-sale.
But as I discovered in the chalet in the Rhone-Alps, a quality newspaper, even if it is old, is hours of entertainment.
And it makes me a little sad to think that newspaper sales are falling. As if a pillar of civilization is being eroded and that society will be worse off without the fifth column keeping an eye on all the skullduggery that goes on and recording the highs of human endeavor.
You build a lifelong relationship with a newspaper and you get to know the writers personalities and learn their turn of phrase, which like a raised eyebrow, speaks volumes about what they are thinking.
You are never bored with a quality newspaper. The news starts your day; the op-ed pages see you through morning tea. The afternoon can be devoted to the features and it guides your entertainment choices in the evening.
But believe it or not, my favorite page in any newspaper is the obituary page. The lives people live are often fascinating and if it wasn’t for a quality newspaper we would never know.