Posted by Steve Flairty
Recently, when I was swapping parts of the Lexington Herald with my wife over leisurely breakfast, I found it interesting to see how my preferences have changed over the course of my life about which parts of the newspaper I read most. I soon started thinking about the idea long after Suzanne had focused on something else. Often my reflections turn into a pillar, and this is an example.
As a kid, I started reading fairly early, spending every allowable minute in the tiny school library at Grant’s Lick Elementary, and regularly ordering a selection from Scholastic Books that my teachers shared with students. But that was nowhere near enough for me, and when the Cincinnati Post and Times Star / Kentucky Post hit Monday through Saturday, I was there. On Sunday when our BIG Cincinnati Enquirer arrived, I was working overtime and devouring it.
Steve Flairty is a teacher, speaker, and author of seven books: a biography of Tim Farmer, host of Kentucky Afield, and six in Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a children’s version. Steve’s “Kentuckys Everyday Heroes # 5” was released in 2019. Steve is the senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, weekly columnist for KyForward and NKyTribune, and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council’s Speakers Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or visit his Facebook page, Kentucky Together: Word Sketches as Tribute.
Before my dad made me a Reds fan in the mid-1960s, as I neared my teenage years, the first place my eyes and fingers traveled was the fun pages (the Enquirer was in Technicolor!). I didn’t need a chair or a table to read my “newspaper”. At that time I was on the floor, sometimes on my knees and sometimes on my side. I usually read Nancy first and I liked Peanuts and Alley Oop (a caveman). Oddly enough, There Oughta Be a Law was another big favorite, written mostly for adults, that dealt with irony and sometimes hypocrisy in everyday events.
But interestingly, when Pete Rose, Frank Robinson, and Vada Pinson started firing my young imagination after Dad took me to a few Reds games at Crosley Field, the comic book sites moved back to second place. As the cold winter days showed hope for milder days, I enjoyed reading about what was going on during spring training in Tampa, Florida. When the special Reds tabloid came out just before the start of the season, I picked it up and seemed to memorize every word about the players and staff within an hour. In general, I kept this glitzy tabloid as a resource on the coffee table in the family living room for weeks. When the Reds were playing on the coast and I hadn’t heard who had won, I zoomed in on the sports page the next day and took a quick look at the cartoon of “Mr. Redleg ”to see if he had a smile on his face or a crack in his crotch. That would suggest the game winner; Then all I had to do was read the score and boxing score for which the Reds scored the most hits or a home run.
The Kentucky Post sports page had the added benefit of running short articles about the Kentucky Wildcats basketball and soccer teams. In the absence of the Lexington Herald and Courier Journal in my neighborhood in northern Kentucky, I grabbed every word I could about the cats I could find anywhere I could get them.
And so it went through college when most of my newspaper reading took place in the library on the EKU campus. I still tended to exercise first, with the added pleasure of reading a variety of newspapers. But now that I’ve been trained in college classes to ponder more serious issues (ha), the front page news caught my attention both locally and nationally and even internationally. I didn’t have a TV in the dormitory, so reading the newspaper became more important in order not to feel so isolated.
I graduated from EKU and started teaching at Trapp School outside of Winchester, my new home. Soon it was the Winchester Sun that mattered; I wanted to know everything about my new environment. Local news events and community features helped orient me, and also people in my community had conversations that began like, “I saw this in the sun. . . “And I had to be ready to talk about Clark County. The sports pages followed, but by now I’d pretty much given up on the comics for lack of interest.
This stayed that way for most of the next twenty years as I lived and taught in several Clark County schools. I moved to Lexington to teach in 1995 and finished teaching full time in 2003. At that point, years of soaking up news events gave me a foundation to synthesize what I had learned, to reflect on and read the reflections of others. That meant diving into the opinion pages. On Sunday morning when my wife and I share the BIG (but not as BIG as in the past) Lexington Herald sections, she gives me the opinion section and I’m glad to have it first.
But nowadays I honestly get most of what I was looking for in a newspaper before, online instead and some from TV. During the day, while writing, it’s fairly easy to check the messages on my desktop and hear the internet messages ping from my smartphone. With the cost of newspapers skyrocketing, I can almost do without printed paper now, although my wife prefers something that she can hold in her hands.
With my new reading habits, a lot has happened on the floor since those early years when I was reading the comics. That’s probably a good thing, but with a lot of questionable things I read today, I’m not entirely sure if it is.
And what about you? How have your newspaper interests developed over the years? I bet we have some things in common.