Bill's Blog


Posted on September 20th, 2018

I’m addicted to newspapers.  For nearly sixty years, I have started each day reading the morning paper. 

I learned to read in the first grade not only by meeting Dick and Jane (“Run, Dick Run!”) in my elementary school reading primers, but also by perusing the Commercial Appeal with my father each morning at the breakfast table. 

My earliest memories of my father are of him sitting in his grey business suit, sipping his coffee and reading the morning paper before he headed to work.  Since I wanted to be like my dad, I would join him at the table and examine the paper, pretending that I could read and understand even the editorials. At first, I just looked at the comics, including Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, and Pogo. 

But by the second grade, I was actually able to read the newspaper headlines, even though I did not always understand them. And by the third grade, I was deep into the sports pages every morning, reading the box scores of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. 

When I was in the fourth grade, I was not only reading the newspaper, I was working for one, in circulation. I got a paper route with the old Press Scimitar, the Memphis evening newspaper. 

And then, in the late 1960s, I became a columnist for a newspaper, The Rampage, the official publication of Frayser High School. 

In college I wrote a column for the UT Daily Beacon, and by the 1990s, I was writing a weekly column for the Commercial Appeal. Yes, I was writing for the publication that once taught me how to read! 

I wasn’t making as much money writing for the Commercial Appeal as I did when I was delivering the Press Scimitar. I once complained to the Commercial Appeal Editor, the late Lionel Linder, saying, “I made more money throwing the Press Scimitar than I make writing for the Commercial Appeal!” 

Without hesitation, Mr. Linder replied, “You were worth more.” 

I wrote sporadically for the Commercial Appeal for over ten years. The reason my tenure was “sporadic” was that I was hired and later fired by three separate editors. I was the Billy Martin of the Commercial Appeal

But while I am still addicted to papers, it has been increasingly difficult in recent years to sustain my addiction. The old Press Scimitar which I happily threw in the ‘60s went the way of the dinosaur long ago. And the Commercial Appeal is still around, but it appears to be disappearing, or at least shrinking.

Winston Churchill once famously said he had two complaints about America: “Their toilet paper is too thin, and their newspapers are too thick.” 

Well, if Sir Winston were around, he might still complain about the toilet paper, but he couldn’t complain about the size of newspapers, as the Commercial Appeal is thinner than most rolls of toilet paper. 

But this week, I found a new source to satisfy my newspaper addiction. It is Memphis’ newest newspaper,The Daily Memphian

Technically, The Daily Memphian is not a news-paper.   It is totally digital. 

I cannot find it at the end of my driveway in the morning, nor can I wrap a fish in it. I read it on my phone, or my laptop. 

The Daily Memphian features some of my favorite writers from the old Commercial Appeal, including Geoff Calkins, Chris Herrington, Otis Sanford, Mike Nelson, and Marc Perrusquia. 

It will be an adjustment for me to move from reading the morning news-paper to the morning digital. But it’s a new day, and I’m excited about the prospect of having another newspaper, albeit a virtual one, to greet me each morning. 

But I am a little disappointed that The Daily Memphian will not give me the opportunity to return to my all-time favorite newspaper position … paper boy!


Keel Hunt: A fine piece, Bill. Good memories of print and the late news-papers. I used to throw the old Banner on my East Nashville route. And I agree with you on your fave writers - Mike, Otis, etal., plus yourself. Keep it up!

Bob Durant: Great thoughts as always, Bill. Along the same line I read an article about the death of the print version written by M.J. Anderson, who was recently let go by the Providence Journal: For those of us who grew up cleaning ink off our hands the slow death spiral of the "Print Version" has been tough but if I guess if it's good enough for Bill Haltom, it's more than good enough for me.

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