As a rule, I don’t like having to pay for something I can get for free. Yet in the name of organizing and decluttering—and maybe in the name of posterity—I recently shelled out $2.95 for a copy of an article that I wrote and already had in my office file.
The article was about a Northeastern Pennsylvania publisher named Jean Kwiatkowski who printed a successful magazine about couponing and rebating. The piece first appeared in The Times-Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where I was a 23-year-old reporter. It was then distributed by the Associated Press and was printed in The Philadelphia Inquirer on March 12, 1989. (That was when a $30 Walkman “AM/FM stereo cassette player” was the hottest device for listening to music, as an ad on the same page reminded me.)
I was elated to have my byline appear in a major paper. I carefully folded the page it appeared on and saved it in a file. It traveled with me from newspaper jobs in Pennsylvania to Florida to Georgia to California.
Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly reducing the amount of paper in my office. I’ve been discarding what I no longer need, giving away useful items to charities and scanning articles I want to save digitally.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t easily scan the Jean Kwiatkowski article. It was laid out with a column running from the top of the page to the bottom and then with several paragraphs stretching across the top of the rest of the page. It wouldn’t fit on my scanner without major cutting and pasting.
I visited the Inquirer’s website and in less than a minute had located my article in its digital archive. After a $2.95 charge to my credit card, I was able to download it and save a digital copy.
I reread the article, using my 20-plus years of additional experience to mentally edit and tweak it. I remembered the thrill I felt when I saw my byline in the Inquirer. I appreciated that I’d always have the digital copy, never yellowing or lost, in my digital file and backed up in the cloud. Then, a little reluctantly, I tossed the yellowing, tattered newspaper clip.