Like many kids, my first reading habits were the comics. My dad would bring home the Sunday papers early on Saturday night: the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Bulletin, and the Camden Courier Post. Some nights he also brought Bon Bons. I would lie on my tummy, eating Bon Bons, watching TV, and reading the comics spread out in front of me on the floor. Sunday comics were special because they were in color. They also had eight to ten panels instead of the weekday three or four. I loved following Blondie and Dennis the Menace.
The Camden Courier Post was our local daily. I would pick up a copy at a local gift store for a nickel, until one day when the rising cost of living hit home and the price was raised to eight cents. For awhile, I fell in love with the tabloid the Philadelphia Daily News. I loved the way it was shaped like a magazine, making it easier to hold and read. Yes, it was inferior in quality to the Inquirer and even the Courier Post, but I was just a kid, so I was influenced more by the coolness factor.
When my family moved across country my newspaper world shifted, as well. San Diego has never been a great newspaper city. The only two dailies there, the Union and Evening Tribune, were both owned by the conservative James Copley. The Evening Tribune is now history. In the Seventies the public learned what anti-war activists already knew, that the Copley Press printed everything the CIA fed them without question. My housemate Bob, a former San Diegan, told me that on the day of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Tribune's headline was "Cuba Revolts." The only readable paper was the Los Angeles Times, which in the late Seventies printed a San Diego edition.
As a teenager in the Sixties, the underground press had a strong influence on me. My brother brought the LA Free Press and Berkeley Barb into our San Diego home. In the Barb, I discovered Dr. Hip, Eugene Schoenfeld, who provided common sense advice on sex and drugs. In the Free Press, I read Harlan Ellison's review of television called the Glass Teat. The author observed that small children lying in front of the TV looked like piglets sucking from their mother pig's teats. The CRT picture tube is appropriately shaped like a teat. San Diego soon had its own underground paper called the Free Door. Cameron Crowe started his journalism career at the Door which he fictionalized in his very good, but overlooked movie, Almost Famous. It was through Bob that I met Tony Maguire, of the Door. Tony, now deceased, was a dyslexic activist and Macintosh evangelist. He told me he suspected Crowe had used his last name for one his fictional characters, Jerry Maguire.
Bob introduced me to Paul Krassner's Realist. Shortly after we arrived in Berkeley, we caught Krassner's standup act at the Julia Morgan Theater. He is one of the funniest comedians I have ever heard. While working at the Barb, Bob got to know Stewart Albert, another cofounder of the Yippies. That is one of Bob's friends I wished I had met, but unfortunately, Albert died a few years ago.
Moving to the Bay Area, I was suddenly awash in printed media. We had the Chronicle, which Bob called the "daily comic book for adults." Through a Joint Operating Agreement, the Chronicle published in the morning and the Hearst owned Examiner came out in the afternoon. The two companies collaborated on the Sunday edition. In the early Eighties, the afternoon Oakland Tribune, owned by Gannett, printed a morning paper called Eastbay Today. It was the prototype for Gannett's national paper, USA Today. It was a cheap read, only ten cents, and I picked one up from a kid selling the papers at the BART station every morning.
There used to be five to seven daily papers coming into our house every day, including national editions of the Los Angeles and New York Times. Now, most of my news comes through electronic means, especially the Internet. I am not against paying for the news. In fact I pay a lot in cable TV and Internet service. I would be happy to buy newspapers online if those other costs would come down.
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