Thursday, April 2, 2009

Children, Comics and Newspapers

As is the case with many metropolitan newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle is in trouble, and many readers have sent letters to the editor offering suggestions or reminiscing. In today’s paper, under the headline If only children read the funnies..., Richard J. Roberts of Placer County writes “I recall starting to read the funnies section in The Chronicle about 1923, when I was 5 years old. From there, it was on to the old Sporting Green when I was in high school. I still wonder what happed to Jiggs and Maggie and I still read Peanuts each day. From there, it was on to the local and world news... None of my six grandchildren, ages 11 through 26, have ever read the funnies, as they have grown up watching SpongeBob etc. on TV and now on the internet. No one ever introduced them to the funnies. So it’s logical then, to blame your dwindling circulation on the funnies.”

I know this is true of me; I started my daily newspaper habit when my father gave me the comics section of the Detroit Free Press. We would sit together every morning over coffee and donuts reading. It’s easy to blame TV and the net for this, but it seems like such a long decline that I think it must be more complicated than that. Maybe this has more to do with families not having breakfast together anymore, or changes in family communication. I don’t know, but I think this relationship between children, comics & the decline of newspapers is an interesting topic of discussion.

Last year, I was in a labor studies class at CCSF taught by Fred Glass. He asked the class, which consisted of about 35 historians, union members and labor activists, “how many subscribe to a newspaper?” I was the only one! Maybe I’m a real dinosaur in this context, but I still love my morning comics (and news) with my coffee. I would hate to see us grow fully dependent on CNN, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal as the only survivors.

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