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The Slice

Sat., June 29, 2013, 4:20 p.m.

Newspaper readers can be a total pain

I should know. I have been one for a long time.

When I was about 10, I was a big Willie Mays fan. That made me a San Francisco Giants fan.

My family lived nowhere near California at the time. But we did subscribe to two daily newspapers. And I was a devoted reader of the sports sections.

One day one of the papers ran a promotional box on an inside sports page. It said something like "Need to know the score?" and provided a phone number. You could call and get the latest results right off the teletype. 

I took note of this. In fact, I regarded it as the potential answer to one of life's major problems -- how to get Giants scores in a timely manner.

I suppose I needn't remind you that the media landscape was different in that era.

Anyway, about that phone number. You would think that if a newspaper was going to offer to be your one-call info source, the people there would have considered that readers might take them up on it. But apparently the number published in the paper was just a phone on the sports copy desk. And so, when a certain kid in the suburbs started blitzing the paper with requests for Giants updates, they weren't ready for it.

Oh, it started off OK. I dialed the number and asked my question. And some guy at the paper provided me with an in-progress score.

But by the time I had called maybe four times in half an hour, my relationship with the ink-stained wretch answering the phone had become somewhat strained.

I cannot recall exactly what that 1960s journalist said to me. Nor can I claim to remember if I actually responded with "Sheesh, what a grouch!"

But in that moment I realized something: Not everyone at newspapers really enjoys interacting with readers.

I'm not sure when that promo with the phone number stopped appearing. I think it was pretty soon after one young baseball fan learned the score.   

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