Waiting for my morning paper

Aziz Akhmad April 17, 2010

Among the first few things I do when I wake up in the morning, in Islamabad, is to put the tea kettle on the stove and go out to look for the newspaper in the car porch.

If it isn’t there, I go back to check every five minutes until I find it. It upsets me when the paper is late, and I hate it when there is no paper because of some holiday. Here in New York City, my morning routine is similar. I pick up my copy of the New York Times, carefully placed at the doorstep, secured with a thick rubber band, and wrapped in a blue plastic bag when there is a chance of rain.

Here, the paper is delivered 365 days a year, regardless of rain, sleet, snow or storm. In Karachi, where I lived for some time in Sea View apartments, our paperboy, like most other service providers in Karachi, was punctual and efficient. Not only would he deliver the paper on time, before the daybreak, he would also toss it skillfully on to the balcony of our second floor apartment, always at the same spot, neatly secured with a rubber band. I always marveled at the accuracy of his throw — better than a basketball player. In Islamabad, however, things are a little different.

I live in an independent house, which should make it easier for the paperboy (paperboy is a misnomer; they are mostly middle-aged men) to deliver the paper. However, the Islamabad paperboys, for some reason, are not good shooters. I find the paper (actually, I have to look for it) in all sorts of places. Worse, when not secured with a rubber band, which often happens (cutting costs, I guess), the paper unravels during the flight and is strewn all over the place — the front page near the gate, the city pages in the shrubs and the editorial pages under the car.

That is when I feel like switching newsagents or even canceling my subscription. There are other things, too, that make me think I should cancel my newspaper subscription: when the paper starts dishing out political gossip in the garb of investigative journalism; when biased journalists start peddling their opinions as news reports; when news headlines are not consistent with the story and are unnecessarily sensational.

Sensationalism probably sells, but so does pornography. And — this is important — when obvious grammar mistakes and an improper use of the language are freely allowed in the paper (what are the editors for)? To quote just one recent example (there are innumerable), a front-page, two-column headline of a news report in a leading paper declared: “Mr [X] must be chewing in his own juice.” Whatever that means, the report was by a ‘ranked’ investigative journalist.

These days, most newspapers and magazines are available on the internet, for free. In fact, some people predict a bleak future for the print media. I am not so sure about that, though. The New York Times still sells close to one million copies daily, at two dollars a copy at the newsstands. Two thirds of the sales are home deliveries. Quality papers, I believe, will always have a market.

For me, reading a newspaper in print while having my first cup of tea in the morning is an addiction. I can’t give it give up — neither the tea, nor the paper. And, I don’t even mind crawling under the car to retrieve my morning paper.

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