In the first throes of spring, I opened a file drawer to sort and toss and shred the other day. I discovered one file filled with newspaper clipping, some going back to 1980. Fresh out of college then, I began by clipping the columns of Russell Baker. Indiscriminately. I loved his elegant writing and his trenchant commentary. I clipped everything he wrote, no matter what the topic. AFter awhile I branched out to other columnists: national, like Thomas Friedman and Ellen Goodman, and local, like Steve Berg. One long-ago column, named "Wearing ties, telling lies," all about the correlation between wearing and tie and... well, you guessed it seems subversive enough now to be interesting to my young-adult stepsons.
Somewhere alone the line, I started saving other articles as well. A five-part series back in 1985 about the importance of Asia in public relations. Several articles about bad weather -- tornadoes and flooding in July of 1987, storms in July of 1997. (It seems I am, like many Minnesotans, fascinated by weather.) Dave Moore's obituary in 1998, and Paul Wellstone's in 2002. "Bound up in Books," an article about a local book bindery (no date). The October 28, 1987, front page picturing the downtown parade after the Twins World Series victory. The ARgus Leader article about the small town of Henry, South Dakota, sending its boys' basketball team to the state championships. Another series in 2004 about Red and Blue State Politics. A recipe for Pear and Arugula Salad.
Why did I save these particular articles? In some cases, the answer is: I don't know. I don't remember anymore why I thought a particular event or idea was so important. Sometimes I believe the writing itself impressed me. Sometimes a picture, or a series of pictures, caught my eye, as in the spread a couple of years ago on July 4 on "Four Freedoms: Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want." Often an article or commentary reflected an interest (or opinion) I held, or still hold.
But the articles also expressed a connection to a community, or communities -- a belief that I am connected to others, in Japan and in the Philippines, in Iraq and in New York City, in Henry, South Dakota, and in Washington, D.C., in the city and the suburbs and on the farms. I wasn't in a half-submerged car on 35W in 1997, but I was in the cheering crowd downton in 1987. I felt connected somehow to the people, the events, the ideas expressed in the paper. That's why I saved them.
Several years a go, my uncle carried on a lengthy political conversation with a local conservative in his small-town newspaper's opinion pages. For several months, the paper printed their arguments and counter-arguments. He saved all of the papers.
This is what a newspaper is: our voices, our community, our interests. It reminds us that we really are connected to each other, whether by grief or rejoicing, by faith or by freedom, or by Pear and Arugula Salad.