At some point in December, shortly after Amanda and I put together our to-do lists and threw them on the internet, I was met in the grocery store by a very attractive young man who offered me ten dollars off my groceries and free movie tickets if I signed up for a discounted subscription to my city paper. I wasn't really interested in the movie tickets, but ten dollars is ten dollars, I already had the "Keep current!" goal in my brain, and, as I said, the guy was very attractive. So I signed up, paid twenty dollars for the paper subscription, and went back to my shopping.
A week later, I realized I had yet to receive a paper. I checked my receipt and, sure enough, the first paper was supposed to arrive the previous Saturday. I gave it a few more days, and then I called the paper. After a few minutes of listening to their surprisingly catchy hold music, I finally got through to a representative. He made his general introductions, and I pressed forward.
"Hi," I said. "I bought a subscription on December 16th, and so far I haven't received a paper. Any idea when that might show up?"
He hemmed and hawed a bit, asked for my information, and then spent a minute clicking around his computer. Finally, he answered in the affirmative. "Yeah," he said. "That should have arrived by now."
Not quite the answer I was looking for. "Except it hasn't. Do you know when I'm going to start getting the paper?"
"Um." The clicking began again. "No. But we'll fix it, and I'll credit your account."
Much better. I agreed to this, requested a vacation hold for the Christmas holidays, and hung up the phone. Sure enough, the representative took care of it: I received my first issue of the newspaper the Monday after the new year.
Reader, please imagine my dismay when, upon opening my long-sought paper, I realized that it was composed of at least seventy-five percent garbage. The sports section was larger than the part actually containing news, and the comics, horoscopes, and crossword puzzle took up two pages of the already brief news section. There was an additional, slim section for auto enthusiasts, and a collection of coupons and advertisements I didn't even glance at, as none were for stores I frequented. Worse: the front page of the paper -- the part that's supposed to contain news? -- was dedicated to football.
This was not a happy "You got peanut butter in my chocolate!" scenario. The entire front page of my newspaper was dedicated to football, in addition to the already thick sports section. A little disgusted, I read through what little news was actually there, credited the slim pickings to it being a "slow news day", and tossed the paper in the recycling bin. A fluke, I told myself. The next day's paper would be better. It would actually contain news.
The next day's paper was not better. It at least didn't feature football on the front page and the auto section had been swapped out for one devoted to food -- relatively more interesting, at least to me --, but the actual news still made up less than a quarter of the paper. I ran into a similar problem the next day, and the next, and the next, and finally, one day, I brought this issue up to a friend.
"Oh, right," she told me. "Didn't you know? That paper is pretty much all about sports. If you want actual news, you have to go read the Post or the Times or something."
That explained it. Clearly, this paper had learned to cater to its audience -- admirable, considering the print industry's growing problems with maintaining its market share -- and its audience was Not Me.
Left with the option of either supporting the print industry by paying for something I considered mostly irrelevant or actually reading, you know, news, I called to cancel my subscription. After twenty minutes (literally) of the representative trying to talk me into purchasing a weekend-only or a weekday-only or a "reduced" subscription (whatever that is), I finally convinced him that no, I really didn't want the paper anymore, and he canceled my account. However, since I had the credit from December, I would still be receiving papers for a few more weeks. Was that okay?
Yes, I told him. That was okay.
So now, nine days into February, I am still (temporarily) receiving a daily newspaper, I've finally realized that the New York Times publishes online for free, and my cats have decided newspaper tastes delicious.
...all the more reason to receive my news electronically, I guess.