And Then There Were None

Thoughts on writing, publishing and other things….

CBR002358 I used to be a newspaper columnist.

I say “used to be” because two weeks ago, the last  of several papers for which I wrote a weekly humor column slipped quietly away, like so many newspapers before it.

When a good thing goes softly into that sweet night, the feelings are many:  sadness, disappointment, frustration, and in this case, a certain resignation.

I’ve known for a long time that the moniker of newspaper columnist was a fleeting one.  Let’s face it–I’m writing to you now on the internet, and if you’re reading, it’s on the internet as well, no ink involved.  But even though I knew it was coming, I find myself mourning the passing of newspapers, not only because of my personal involvement as a writer, but as a reader, too.

There’s something about holding a newspaper in my hands first thing in the morning that grounds me, somehow connects me to the world more directly than reading words on a computer screen.  For some reason, those writing for a newspaper feel closer, seem more real to me than the anonymous authors floating around in cyberspace.

I realize that it’s all about perception, and mourning aside, I will survive, as will those other writers, provided they utilize this amazing tool known as the internet.

Most important, as Chrysa pointed out in the previous post (read it; it’s a good one!), we have to tell our stories.  No matter the venue, we must continue to talk, or write, and communicate.  It’s not only essential to our growth as individuals, it’s essential for the survival of the planet.  And obviously, the internet provides limitless opportunities to be heard which won’t wilt or fall apart in a rain storm.

I’ll miss my newspapers, but I’m more determined than ever to keep writing.  With any luck, I’ll reach more readers and perhaps save a few trees in the process.   And that’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Check out Mary Fran’s website at


  1. June 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    From a visual standpoint I can tell you, as an artist and sometime theater person, there is no other prop, in a drawing or stage scene, like a newspaper. Perhaps because it IS made organically—from trees— and can be folded into a lethal brick or spread wide in both arms, in human hands a newspaper becomes a prop extraordinaire. Folks can hide behind newspapers, swat dogs, flies or children with them, crumple them into a ball and hurl them to the floor—try THAT with a laptop! You can’t convey ANY emotion through that square of plastic and metal. Just think of all the movie scenes where some old codger does a slow boil while crunching the pages of a newspaper in his fists, because he just read some news story that frosted his bald pate!
    I guess this is a peripheral argument for keeping newspapers around—but I do believe the ‘props’ of our everyday lives matter, and I truly hope newspapers come to thrive again. I love reading about the world in them, and occasionally hiding from the world behind them.
    And Mary Fran, George sings sometimes with a choir that includes two Bulletin staffers—they say the publisher is working very hard to bring it back, and they think it WILL return!

    • maryfranbontempo said,

      June 22, 2009 at 12:04 am


      What a great perspective.  I never would have been able to articulate that sentiment as well as you have and it’s quite symbolic also, I think.  Thank you for being a friend and for being so very supportive. 

      I’ve heard rumblings about The Bulletin and we’ll see where it goes.  Here’s hoping and thanks for the update!


      Mary Fran Bontempo Everyday Adventures or As My Husband Says, “Lies, Lies and More Lies” Freelance Writing 215-357-6590

  2. Warsaw ninja said,

    June 20, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I read your item (post, blog, whatever the kids call it) about the death of newspapers. Intrigued me enough to read rest of site (post, blog, wtkci). After reading why calling the space “Espresso,latte or mocha”, I found myself wondering if my secret dream of writing, like just plain coffee has also gone the way of “real newspapers”. And if there is a place for a traditional anything anywhere in the world, including a coffee perspective on a blog somewhere. A solid stable pot labelled “coffee”, served black and you pour it yourself, maybe simply adding only a little cream and/or sugar to take the edge off the bitterness as the day begins. Where no third party serves it to you after they whip, froth, steam or churn anything. A good old cup of joe, a vestige of a somewhat masculine tradition like barbershops in a world of styling salons. A last outpost of plain, functional, unembellished tradition in a marketers “false euro world”. Even Mcdonalds is now runnig ads with false accents for their new cafe promo. It’s weird. Like when my kids call a department store from the midwest “Tar-jay” to sound classier than “Target”.

    I cannot begin my day without a cup of coffee and my newspaper, at least the cryptogram and crossword. My wife calls it “the BC age”- before coffee. I am never a morning person, but esp. BC, i am a uncommunicative monster.

    In my workplace, they have this little coffee machine thingey. You put in a shot glass sized, pre-packaged coffee package that looks more like a take-out store creamer package, and it makes one cup. What happened to putting on a pot for all, and retreating to it throughout the morning to refuel?

    There is another novelty in the office, me. I am the “weird old guy” of 46 who actually reads a newspaper, doesn’t own an iPod, listens to non-satellite radio, and disdains the office coffee options. The others hope to get the last hazelnut, french vanilla, or irish creme package. I stopped even asking for the “maxwell house” flavored shot thingeys to be ordered. Though I tease the others if you really want to start your day with a candy bar or cocktail, then why call it coffee? But I end up being labelled the antique, or even anarchist. So now I now go to Wawa on way to office instead.

    In same way, I have wrestled with the idea of writing for years, but I fear the world wants a serving of “Nutty Irish Latte” in a travel cup, not the mug of perspective I get from my booth at life’s diner..

    • maryfranbontempo said,

      June 22, 2009 at 12:14 am


      You need to start blogging.? I know, I know, I hate the word, too, but it really is such an easy to write, get your stuff out there and control a little bit of the craziness that we deal with every day.

      Your comment certainly shows that you have a writer’s sensibility.? Don’t let it go to waste just because you don’t think the rest of the world will “get it.”? There are a lot more of us out there than you might think, and we deserve a voice.

      Thanks for your interest and comments.? Let me know if you decide to go the blogging route.? If I can help at all, I’ll be glad to.


      Mary Fran Bontempo Everyday Adventures or As My Husband Says, “Lies, Lies and More Lies” Freelance Writing 215-357-6590

      • billski said,

        June 22, 2009 at 7:44 pm

        Thanks for the advice. But my destiny seems to be to read others’ works, comment occasionally when not asked, and to give others writing books. Generally, just to be frustrated about just about everything.

        BTW- How’s Dave? I have not talked to him in forever.

  3. chrysasmith said,

    June 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    It’s change. We forty-somethings grew up in a much more personal world–a tactile world—with items you could hold onto; each with their own purpose. Now, for so many needs, we turn to impersonal machines and sit in front of them, as I am now, typing, reading, researching, investigating, laughing, frowning, communicating.

    I didn’t think I’d love email; I do. It’s made my communication immediate and convenient and closed business deals quicker than any amount of phone tag could. I didn’t think I’d use my cell phone as much: I do. I don’t have to sit home or come home for an important call: I can make it from anywhere, and continue with my day. I love my MP3. I didn’t think I’d use that as much. But I plug it into my car, and hear the songs I love, as I like them.

    But, I do draw the line. I’d rather hold a book in my hand, smell the paper, look at and touch the cover, throw it in my purse and take it with me while I wait in offices, lie on the beach, or sneak during halftimes. The same with newspapers. They really force you to look at a lot more than what the electronic window allow you to pick and choose. You turn the pages and will stop and read a comic, will see a headline that grabs your interest, an ad for a local establishment that might actually take you off your chair and get you out in touch with the real world.

    I just read that 42% of Americans cannot read beyond an 8th grade level.(IBPA). That may really be more telling than technology. Computer or paper, if you can’t read, understand, communicate effectively, you are truly lost.

    • billski said,

      June 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm

      Chrysa- were you replying to me, Warsaw ninja? If so, thanks for the perspective.

      BTW ladies, regarding the time stamp on your page, everything appears dated four hours later than it happened. Definitely on my stuff. Weird.

  4. June 22, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    About the time delay, if it is 5 hours, may be they go by Greenwich time. I’ll check the date of this post to see.

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