Friday, June 4, 2010

No Paper Left Behind

A tea leaf of the future for the newspaper?

I took Amtrak from Philadelphia where I am based to New York yesterday. Normally I buy a copy of the Wall Street Journal at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station before I hop on the train. I didn't this time, as I cut myself too closely on making the train to stop at the newsstand. No problem — I would just pick up a copy left behind by a fellow commuter when we got off in New York.

It didn't happen. When we pulled into Penn Station, I walked the length of my car for a left-behind paper. No Wall Street Journal. No New York Times. No Philadelphia Inquirer. No Washington Post or Wilmington News-Journal (this being the Washington to Boston run). Nada.

Come to think of it, I now don't recall anyone reading a newspaper during the hour and 20 minute ride. As for me, I caught up on some manuscript reading and editing that I haven't been able to do in the office. And the fellow next to me? I was a good Samaritan — since he was sitting on the aisle, he asked to plug his computer's cord into the window outlet next to me, so I had his PC cord dangling on my tray table the whole way into Newark where he got off.

This never happened to me before — not a single paper left behind for my retrieval when a whole carload of Amtrak commuters departed the premises. That did not make me feel good setting out on my day into one of the newspaper capitals of the world.

Illustration: "Evening News" by Francis Luis Mora (1874-1940), oil on canvas, displayed at the James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pa.