{Guest Column} Millennial Musings: Why my generation needs to read the paper

I’m not a fan of labels, especially ones that come with a whole set of preprogrammed behaviors, mannerisms, styles and even color schemes (ever heard of millennial pink?)
But technically, I’m a “millennial.”
I like the term “Generation Y” a lot better, or as I like to say, “Generation WHY.” It sums up how a lot of us feel about life in general. Why get married? Why have kids? Why work your butt off only to be able to afford ramen, a falling down apartment and $6 wine?
Really, why?
I think maybe we’re all deeply scarred and a little disappointed that when Y2K rolled around the world didn’t actually end. We could have gone out on such a high note. Beanie Babies, Pokemon, the Disney renaissance, Carmen San Diego, Bop Its, Nintendo and nary a Tide Pod challenge in sight.
(Did I just fully disclose my total nerdiness with that list? Probably.)
When you look at how our generation is defined more arbitrarily, you get wild variation. We are at once lazy, unmotivated, sensitive, creative, caring, disconnected, inspired, irresponsible and overly involved.
In all that contradiction, one thing I’m fairly certain of is a lot of us are not reading our local newspaper.
So, my fellow WHYers, I’ve compiled a list of reasons WHY (sorry, couldn’t help it) it’s a good idea to sit down with the newspaper.

1) Free education
We are the generation of useless college degrees. They happily gave us six figure student loans, but conveniently forgot to mention that nobody actually needs a master’s degree in the molecular structure of hamburger.
We do love to learn, though. So perk number one of your friendly neighborhood newspaper? It’s an education. For $1. Now, don’t even think about freaking out. We routinely spend $5 on lattes. I think we can all afford a dollar a week to educate ourselves on the happenings in our community.

2) We are adults now. And adulting means taxes.
See that hit on your pay stub? That’s Uncle Sam’s slice of your pie. It’s the government’s job to be wise stewards of your money and it’s your responsibility to ensure they are using the funds in a responsible way.
The thing is, you probably don’t have time to attend every single meeting of every single board, committee or other taxpayer-funded entity in your community while you’re working your butt off for those ramen noodles and cheap wine, right? Who does?
That’s where the paper comes in. We do our best to cover the meetings that matter so you know exactly what is happening with your money, at least locally.

3) We are realists.
A lot of us, maybe again due to the influence of Y2K (or, you know, the constant threat of nuclear war), have a well-developed sense of impending doom. Hello, zombie entertainment fanaticism.
At some point, it is entirely possible our digital world or even our entire society will collapse. What will we be left with for communication? For leaving a mark on history? Paper and ink.
I want to make sure I’m in the record somewhere when the aliens are trying to piece together what happened to our charred husk of a planet—and not as a root cause of the carnage.

4) Local news matters.
This goes back to No. 2 a bit, but when was the last time you saw a town council meeting recap on Buzzfeed? Or a local event hyped up on Reddit or Snapchat?
Just because it’s not loaded with clickbait advertising doesn’t mean it’s not important. (I feel like this is something we all need to memorize and then memorize again.)
Local news is important and it’s necessary. By reading the newspaper, you have the opportunity to find out what’s happening in your community, learn new things, and keep tabs on your local government entities. For less than the price of a Snickers bar.
Basically, it turns you into a magical unicorn of knowledge.

5) Community involvement matters, too.
We have wonderful communities and entities and events in Rio Blanco County. I recently attended the annual meeting of the RBC Historical Society, which was way outside of my personal comfort zone, but something I felt would be interesting and informative for both myself and my 5-year-old daughter. We were definitely the youngest people there, but I got to experience not only some out-of-this-world scalloped potatoes, I got to learn about some of the history of our county and converse with some truly fantastic people. It was a great experience, and I hope a lot more of us “young-uns” will get involved in these sorts of things and keep them going for the next generation.

In conclusion, my fellow WHYers, I hope you’ll consider picking up a paper every now and again. Better yet, sign up for a subscription so you don’t have to remember to stop at a rack or a store and find real, actual cash in your pocket (sorry, they don’t have debit card friendly newspaper machines yet). Please, please, please send in your community photos, your wedding announcements, pictures of your kids and your events and all the other things you want to be immortalized in ink for future generations, things that shouldn’t be subject to the corporate whims of social media algorithms that could decide to delete you in an instant.
It’s time to get involved—in your government, in your community and in your local news.
In other words, millennials, it’s time to find your WHY.


Caitlin Walker