What to do with old newspapers

Every week I’m confronted with questions about what happens to the newspapers we’ve already printed that don’t have a home.

We keep recent papers around for a while knowing that someone somewhere may want to buy a few extra copies. But even for last week’s paper, if the “extra” count starts to get to 50 or 100, we tend to recycle them soon.

For slightly older papers, we keep a smaller number around and recycle the rest. But it’s not unheard of to have someone come in six months or more after a publication date and ask us for a copy. Maybe an article made its way through the mail or online and that person is just now getting around to asking.

Here’s the big ugly rack in our office where we store these:

I feel somewhat conflicted about the individual copies of the paper that I take home to my family. Part of me wants to create a nice neat long-term storage area for them so I have tangible proof of this thing I help create every week, and part of me doesn’t want to be weighed down by the accumulation of stuff. My current approach is to keep copies of issues that are special to me in some way — maybe I wrote something substantial appearing inside, or maybe I did most of the layout work — and then eventually I use the rest for building fires.

Of course, we also take steps to make sure the paper is preserved for others in the long term.

We have each six months of issues bound into archives. We have full color PDFs of each paper on our website, along with some of the individual articles. We save copies of the source material, photos and layout files in various online and offline storage locations. We’re working with a local library to see about additional preservation and research availability options. And so on.

The most poignant moments of considering this question happen when a spouse or family member of someone recently deceased stops by the office to buy an extra copy, or sometimes 20.

The other day there was a woman and her daughter who came in, still fresh in their grief, and I could tell that it meant a lot to them to see that their loved one’s life and memory had been preserved in print and shared with the community in an obituary. They hugged me and thanked me, and we all stood around for a moment acknowledging this milestone in the process of saying goodbye.

I was glad to be a part of it, and glad that we had enough copies of the paper to make it possible.

Chris Hardie is a journalist, newspaper publisher, software developer and entrepreneur based in Indiana, USA. Read more from Chris on this site, learn more on his personal website, subscribe for updates or follow Chris on Mastodon.

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