A testimony to the power of newspaper readership

“I see by the paper …”

 —common old saying referring to this week’s local news.

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“Well, I see by the paper …” was a commonly heard phrase before the days of the internet when the only option for readers wanting the latest news was to hold a newspaper in their hands. Whatever came after that introductory statement was news either not received elsewhere or confirmed reports previously heard only as word-of-mouth. It was also testimony to the power of newspaper readership.

That saying came to mind last week as I was still trying to evaluate book potential in Aldridge columns that have appeared in newsprint and ink over the years. Several examples recalling testimony to the power of the printed word were found among them. One penned just a few years ago stood out where I opined about a Saturday drive through the forests of Deep East Texas in my ’55 Ford.

Writing about watching the sunset while cruising tree-lined country roads in a car almost as old I am, I suggested that East Texas had to be the best place on earth to live. I also noted that the feeling reminded me of a word learned some 40 years earlier in a psychology class defining that exact feeling. Ethnocentrism, properly defined, means a mindset based on beliefs and values, giving one a sense of loyalty and likelihood to follow those norms and develop relationships with those of like mind. In other words, I have a deep admiration for East Texas where I was raised, and I think it’s a mighty fine place to call home. 

And I attributed that knowledge to East Texas State University at Commerce, better known today as Texas A&M University-Commerce. With that revelation, I also asserted that my ETSU degree made me “an Aggie by default.”

Days after that column ran, Wyman Williams, then Associate Vice President for Advancement at Texas A&M University-Commerce, read my claim to be an Aggie by another sheepskin. That prompted a call in which he could “see by the paper …” my column offered an opportunity to clear up what the university has decided was poor communication during the name change some years before. Plus how they were then working on improving that image. 

Possibly the best example of “I see by the paper …” is my friend Grady Firmin from Mount Pleasant. An ex-marine pilot, Grady was one of my instructors on the way to obtaining a pilot’s license many years ago. I had not heard from Grady in some time when I wrote a column about him while at the Boerne newspaper in the 90s, The Star. It was a simple “I wonder what ever happened to …” piece like I used to write about friends with whom I had not had contact in a while. 

Mere weeks later, I received a call from Grady, who began the conversation with, “All I have to say is that the pen really is mightier that the sword.” Turns out one of Grady’s friends in Dallas was reading The Star at his mother’s house in San Antonio, saw the column, and took it back to Dallas for Grady to read. 

One of my favorite sayings is “the only constant is change.” While the delivery method has diversified with the advent of the internet, the role of community newspapers remains constant. An enlightened population still desires to be informed. Sorta reminds me of the first fax machine installed at The East Texas Light in the early 1980s. When it announced an incoming message via the distinctive tone, we all gathered around to marvel at the arrival of a letter that was sent from halfway across the nation less than five minutes ago.

I remember making the assertion that it’s possible fax might be adapted to newspaper delivery in our lifetime. Now considered “horse and buggy,” themselves, fax machines turned out not to be the new way of newspaper delivery. That seems to have fallen to the internet. But by whatever means of delivery, readers in most communities still value the validation that goes with saying, “I see by the paper …”

Just ask Grady.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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