Friday, 11 July 2008
All the News That Fits
I emerged from the Farragut North Metro yesterday morning and collided with a metaphor. A man and a woman were hunched over the newspaper street racks at the corner of Connecticut and L NW. They were scraping the names of newspapers from the brown metal vending machines.
The Financial Times had already come off. The Miami Herald had been reduced to "Miam" and the Richmond Times Dispatch was disappearing, one letter at a time. Those papers, I was told, had decided not to vend from the street racks anymore. Some, like the Financial Times, you could still get by subscription and at news stands. Others might be harder to get in D.C.
Street boxes in Washington for out of town newspapers have always been a bit of a vanity exercise. Surely it costs more than 75 cents for the Miami Herald or Los Angeles Times to wind up in downtown Washington. But if you worked for those papers you felt a little frisson every time you walked past. Of course, Washington bureaus are being decimated so there's just as little chance of an LA or Miami staffer walking past as there is of a Washingtonian fingering three quarters and saying, "You know what I need this morning? News from Miami." He can get it for free on the web now.
They weren't scraping off all the names. A few newspapers remained--and those free real estate books. And The Washington Post and the Washington Times still have their own separate street racks. But the impressively huge monster rack was being whittled away from the inside. (There's another metaphor!) What will be done with it when it's empty, and when all the other street racks--with their signature message: "Use any combination of coins," and their unspoken "take no more than one paper" honor code--are no longer needed?
Dump them in the ocean, I guess, an artificial reef for the fishes. If there are any fishes left, that is....