Bud Herron: Greeting change, like Scooby’d do


Human beings are an habitual species.

We are not far removed from the hour-to-hour activity patterns of my cat, Scooby, who takes the same route across my bedside table every morning at 5:30. His daily goal is to stand on my head and wake me up — knocking my cellphone on the floor and adjusting the lamp shade to his desired level of crookedness during the journey.

I can relate to the mindless comfort of “sameness” this journey provides for Scooby. When I am honest about myself (which is rare), I realize I travel similar mindless journeys every day of my life.

Making my morning coffee is so programmed and mechanical I sometimes am halfway through the first cup before I remember pouring it.

My toothbrushing pattern never varies, nor does the route my washcloth takes during my morning shower or the order in which legs go into my trousers and shoes go onto my feet.

A friend was once claimed he was saved from approaching alcoholism when his wife mistakenly bought a case of bottled beer instead of his usual four six-packs of cans. He could not make the mechanical/mental adjustment to the feel of the bottle in his hands and the glass on his lips. (And the ritual of crushing each empty can on his forehead was lost in the hard, cold world of glass bottles, I suppose.)

Thirty-five years ago I quit smoking cigarettes — “forever,” for about the 20th time. I have not smoked since. Getting my body free from the nicotine craving took about a month. Getting my hand to quit reaching into my shirt pocket for a cigarette every time I had a cup of coffee took six months.

This week, this daily newspaper begins reducing the number of “print editions” offered each week — placing the news each of those days online only. Subscribers were informed of the change a couple of weeks ago.

The news of the change was greeted with a shoulder shrug by subscribers who already were reading the news online in digital format. I was only moderately disoriented by the change.

I have not held a traditionally printed newspaper in my hands for years. I transitioned long ago to the “e-edition” — which looks just like the printed one but is on my computer and cellphone screens and leaves no ink smudges on my hands or clothes.

Still, I did not greet the announced changes with a shrug. Along with the dropping of some print editions, my much-enjoyed, formatted “e-editions” also will disappear, except on days when the newspaper still is printed. I will have to adjust to reading the news on a site that is not a reproduction of the traditional newspaper, organized and presented by editors in they way I have known newspapers to be since I was a child.

“Well, boo hoo,” my 51-year-old daughter said to me when I whined to her about this violation of my preferred way of reading. “Welcome to the 21st century. You will get used to the digital format.”

Of course, she is right. The taste of beer is not changed by varying the container, as much as my friend believed it was. If I teach my hands to brush my teeth in a different pattern, my teeth will not decay or fall out.

And, local news will not disappear just because I have to learn to accept a new way of reading it. The importance of me reading that news for the sake of my participation in my community does not change at all.

The days of massive iron presses spitting out miles and miles of paper printed with tank cars full of petroleum-based ink cannot be sustained — either for the related costs or the environmental impact.

Change has been on the way for decades, and now it is here.

I can accept that reality and embrace new habits, as much as I enjoyed “the way things used to be.” I think even Scooby has the capacity to adjust to change.

I will bet that if I remove the bedside table he will just find a new path to reach the goal of standing on my head at 5:30 a.m.

Bud Herron is the former editor and publisher of the Daily Journal. Contact him [email protected].

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