‘I Love the Smell of Newspaper’
November 21, 2013
Lisa Rossi


In an industry in turmoil, sometimes I wonder: Why would any young person sign up to be a journalist these days?

Carl Sessions Stepp, in his latest post in the AJR Voices section, offers an answer.

He recently asked his class, composed of freshmen, to write about both the old media and new media products that they consume.

Their answers were surprising. They said things like “love the smell of newspaper” and “idolize” the anchors on the Today show. True, they all love Twitter, but many said the print paper was their preferred source of news.

Really? When I walk around campus, I note the sea of smartphones.

Turns out, young people drawn to this profession today have deeply nostalgic and fond memories of reading the newspaper or watching the evening news with their families.

Media, as Stepp explains, has always been social.

Molly Podlesny of Fredericksburg, Va., wrote in Stepp’s class: “For as long as I can remember, I  have read my hometown paper. The Free Lance-Star taught me how to read as I sat on my father’s lap looking at the comics.”

Podlesny’s words instantly brought tears to my eyes. It’s been a long time since I’ve made it back home for a visit; I grew up on an acreage in rural Iowa. For parts of my childhood, my dad, a salesman, drove around the Midwest, selling merchandise to garden shops nestled across the region.

When he came back home, he would plunk a newspaper in front of me. Sometimes it was a USA Today he snagged from a hotel where he stayed, or a Des Moines Register he picked up from the gas station. And on Sundays, when he was always home, we would read the Waterloo Courier around the kitchen table, with the smell of fried eggs and coffee in the air.

Indeed, I too, was lured into journalism from a happy place in my childhood, so it makes sense I’ve clung to it, despite rounds of layoffs and cutbacks in the 10 years since I accepted my first reporting job as a cub reporter at the Des Moines Register.

Read Carl’s post in its entirety here and please share your own memories in the comments section of how you first came to discover the newspaper, television or your medium of choice. Did this influence your choice to become a journalist (and to stay?)

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