September 14, 2014
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EDITORIAL
The feel of a newspaper

For years, it has been said that the death of newspapers is inevitable.

With the use of tablets and smart phones seen as the norm for society, many newspapers and magazines have been forced to adapt or disappear. Nothing showcased this more than when Newsweek, which has been published for almost 80 years, became a strictly digital publication, releasing their final U.S. print edition on Dec. 31, 2012.

Even journalism students are taught the finer points of blogging and tweeting in addition to traditional news writing.

Yet just this week, the issue of The Providence Gazette from June 13, 1772 featuring the original account of the burning of the Gaspee ended up in the hands of the Gaspee Days Committee. One of the first written accounts of a story celebrated every year has literally found its way home.

How can we deny the power of a newspaper now? This 241-year-old newspaper will bring the story of the first act for American freedom to life for future generations of Rhode Islanders when it is eventually displayed in the Pawtuxet Rangers Armory.

Now think about other historic events, no matter how big or how small. Newspapers have recorded them all.

While speaking with Mark Tracy, the man who generously donated the Gaspee newspaper, Tracy recalled one Gaspee Days Committee member telling him the Gaspee paper was in better condition than his newspaper from 10 years ago depicting the moment when the Boston Red Sox broke the curse and won the World Series.

And despite its poor quality, that newspaper is still in his home.

In fact, that newspaper is probably sitting in the homes of hundreds of Red Sox fans across the country. Or the newspaper from the day Barack Obama was elected president. Those are all great moments in history to someone.

Alan Barth, a Washington Post editorial writer, is reportedly the first person to say, “News is the first rough draft of history.” The Gaspee Days Committee has to believe that to be true. They have in their possession what is probably the first draft of the story they have been telling for decades.

How exciting is that?

Now think how unexciting it will be for someone living in the year 2213 to happen upon a firsthand account of a historical milestone from 2013…because they looked it up on Google.

It just doesn’t have the same feeling to it, does it?


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