by James Smart

You are, at this moment, reading a newspaper. Thank you.

A Pew Research Center analysis last year said that weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers, both print and digital, fell eight percent in 2016, marking the 28th consecutive year of decline.

A University of North Carolina journalism school survey says that more than 1,800 American newspapers have closed since 2004, leaving about 7,000 still printing.

Many people read what they pretend is a newspaper online, but that’s not the same. It may be news, but it isn’t paper. The same is true of news on radio and television.

Let me tell you why a newspaper is still the best way to get your news.

You can read it any time. You don’t have to wait for a scheduled time, like radio and TV.

You can take it with you. You can read it on a bus or a train, or while eating in McDonald’s. Try doing that with the television news.

If something you read interests you, you can clip it out and save it. You can’t paste Jim Gardner in a scrap book.

You have to put up with intrusions of advertising on radio, TV and even online. It’s easy to skip the ads in a newspaper. (Don’t tell the publisher I said that.)

You can turn to the parts you want in a newspaper, and pass over pages you don’t like. (Don’t tell my publisher I said that, either.)

If you’re interested in sports news, you can go right to it; you don’t have to wait until the broadcasters decide to report it. And you can take as much time as you want; the newspaper article won’t suddenly move on to another subject.

And if, for instance, your daughter gets her picture in the paper, dancing in the junior high school talent show, you can make copies and mail them to all your out-of-town relatives. (If you don’t have a daughter, that’s not my fault.)

Some advertisers put bargain coupons in their ads that you can clip out and use to save money in the store. If you tried to clip a coupon out of a television ad, you’d probably get a heck of a shock. You can write a letter to your newspaper. If the editors like it, they might print it.

You can write a letter to a television station, too, but when was the last time you saw a television news broadcaster read something from his station’s letters to the editor department?

And there are many things you can do with a newspaper that you flat out cannot do with a radio, television, cell phone or computer.

You can roll it up and swat flies. You can use it to start a fire in the fireplace. On a rainy or snowy day, it makes a fine temporary door mat. You can’t do those things with your radio or television.

You can use newspaper to line a bird cage or dog house or cat bed. Try that with your 55-inch TV.

And if you know how to fold it, you can make a newspaper page into a hat. Guys who work on the big newspaper presses make hats out of newsprint (the name of that kind of paper.) But you can’t fold up a computer terminal and make a hat.

James Smart is a longtime resident of Mt. Airy, an author of local history books and a former columnist for the Philadelphia Bulletin.