Copy That: To whom it may concern
My typical Ann Arbor weekend: I’ve made the trek down to Main Street to one of my favorite coffee shops and, before I get started on schoolwork, I sit with a fresh mug of black coffee and a crisp copy of the newspaper. That’s right: the news, on paper. Hard-copy news is still alive and well.
I joined The Michigan Daily on a whim when a friend ardently convinced me, and one year later, here I am in the position of senior copy editor. As part of the copy section at The Daily, I now spend each week fact-checking and editing the grammar of articles. Looking back, I realize I joined not for the enthusiasm of editing or even the chance to belong to The Daily community, but out of a subconscious passion for preserving the art of printed news — no app, email or Twitterverse sound-bitten form of news.
Today, society innovatively manages to stay informed and connected. However, it’s rare to see college students and millennials picking up and reading a physical newspaper like my grandparents do every morning at the breakfast table. For me, newspapers are the last true bastion of reliable information in an age of questionable online sources. As a copy editor, I understand the pertinence of not only grammatical editing but the absolute necessity of fact-checking for accurate information.
Ironically, I’m writing this article to an intended audience of college students and millennials who probably won’t actually read it. I’m sending a message in a bottle into the ocean hoping someone will eventually find it buried in the sand on a distant shore. This metaphor might be extreme, but you get the message (pun intended).
Most students, myself included, mindlessly scroll through their phones the way apps have trained us to do. A print newspaper forces us to stop and smell the roses. It distracts us in a wholesome way and forces us to reflect — even for just a minute of our day — on what else is going on in the world, without seeing these events through the unfocused lenses of social media sources. Though not impossible, it’s difficult to quickly and frantically skim the printed news in a rush to class or while walking through the crowds of State Street. A newspaper demands our full attention — a concept most of us reserve for binge-watching “Friends.”
A newspaper says more than the words on its pages. The voice of established publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune all have specific styles that effectively reveal the inner truths of a location and subculture. The newspaper inherently conveys emotion and mood and has a personal effect on the reader. When touring colleges as a senior in high school, I always picked up the colleges’ student newspapers to assess the campus vibe and to understand the voice of its students.
Not surprisingly, one of my favorite parts of my day during my summer internship experience in Washington, D.C., was reading Express, a free daily publication from The Washington Post, on the Metro every morning. It served not only as a source for the current state of the union and political shenanigans, but also became my personal guide to the city. The “Weekend Pass” section highlighted destinations of interest, local events, upcoming concerts and the newest museum exhibits in a way no website or friend recommendation could do. I found myself ending up everywhere from the steps of the National Portrait Gallery for the free Fall Out Boy concert before the Capitals’ playoff game to the Hirshhorn Museum for the Georg Baselitz exhibit — all of this as a result of reading the news.
If the news is so subtly transformative in our daily lives, then being involved with The Daily as copy editor is all the more transformative to my own life. While working at The Daily (and in an effort to keep current for my political science classes), I have refined my news-reading habits and become inspired to declare an English major with a political science minor. Being involved so closely with the news introduced me to my own curiosity and excitement for reading that transcends the confines of the classroom and the realm of academia. I came to appreciate a news article as an art form, much like that of great literature, poetry or lyrics.
Though not truly an aging dinosaur yet, newspapers just might have a comeback in our generation, much in the same way vinyl record players and Polaroid pictures have cluttered the dorm rooms of college students. I can only hope.
So as I finish my coffee shop session of weekend studying, I will leave behind my paged-through copy of The Daily with the intention that someone else might pick it up, take the time to read it, then leave it for the next person. Either that or it will end up on the bottom of their new puppy’s training cage. Regardless, I will continue to do my best to initiate a new reader — even if it’s just one hard copy at a time.