Monday, December 19, 2011

Newspaper Clippings

In her memoir Why Is My Mother Getting A Tattoo, former Rolling Stone writer Jancee Dunn says that her parents habitually clipped articles from newspapers and sent them to her. She categorized them under a few separate headings, all falling within the 'human interest story' umbrella, though her father's newspaper clippings were more cautionary tales of what might happen if she weren't constantly on alert. I chuckled at this chapter in her book because I come from a family of newspaper clippers, too.

My grandmother used to mail me letters with carefully cut-out news articles inside. Hers seemed to have nothing to do with my life. She sent me articles on serial killer trials and sales flyers from the mall. I was never sure why she sent these to me, but imagined that she sent just as many clippings to her daughters as she did me. Whether they were relevant to their lives is anyone's guess. I only know mine weren't.

My mother sent me clippings too, and sometimes still cuts them out and saves them for me. But hers make sense. She saves travel articles on places I might like to go, or articles on subjects that she knows I like. Sometimes she clips articles out because it has to do with a topic we were just talking about. I enjoy these snippets for several reasons. I save them in my filing cabinet.

Secretly, I've always hoped that all families do this, and that some of the newspaper articles I wrote in my three years writing for the newspaper were clipped and saved, too. I hope that someone, somewhere, read an article about a horse getting acupuncture and sent it off to a horse owner they knew. I hope that someone read about varieties of champagne and took that article with them to the store when they went shopping for New Year's Eve. I hope that someone read my article on the 1937 flood of the Ohio River and stuck it into an envelope to send to a relative that lived through it.

I've seen some of my restaurant reviews hanging in the windows and lobbies of restaurants. I've seen a clipping displayed in a dentist's office that I highlighted once. Another human interest story; this one centered around the fact that they baked bread  in the office all day long and their reasons for doing so.

Newspapers may become extinct as we move deeper and deeper into the digital age. I hope not. I get such a rare satisfaction from them. Instant gratification when the words first appear in print and then later a second kick out of seeing that people have saved my words even when they don't know that they're mine. I don't know whether I'll ever get the same thrill if/when I manage to publish a book. The newspaper clipping is so simple and clear: someone has read my words and saved them. After all, isn't that what every writer wants? To know that their words have been read?

1 comment:

  1. I'd probably be terrified of any newspaper clippings my parents sent to me. The last time anyone in my immediate family asked for my address it was because they were planning on running away, and fourteen. But I have long given up on hoping my family resembles normal.