Darrell Huckaby - Columnist's opining moves to the World Wide Web

I have always been an old-school kind of guy. Even while growing up in the '50s, I was nostalgic for the '40s that I had never experienced. I spend more time watching "Andy Griffith" and "I Love Lucy" reruns than I do watching current sitcoms. I prefer home-cooked vegetables to filet mignon. I am, basically, resistant to change. I am old and set in my ways and have developed certain habits over the years that I am loath to give up.

Take the newspaper, for instance. I like reading the newspaper. It is part of my daily ritual - wherever I am. At home I get up an hour before anybody else in my family, not because I don't like sleep but because I covet having an hour to myself to drink my coffee and pour over the daily papers.

When we are on vacation it is the same deal. I set my alarm for early, jump out of bed, turn on the coffee maker and head out to buy a newspaper. Sometimes that is a difficult task, especially when we are at some out-of-the-way cabin in the boondocks. I have been known to drive 10 or 15 miles, however, just to be able to start my day with a fresh paper in my hands. I have also been known to spend 10 or 20 more dollars to upgrade potential accommodations by the lure of a "free" paper delivered to my room.

A few years ago I traveled to Los Angeles to visit my friend Caroline Ingle, who was teaching at a mission school in Compton - smack dab in the middle of the mean streets of L.A. (Now, she teaches three-and-a-half feet from the door of my classroom, but that's another story for another day.) We got a great deal on a hotel in an area known as Korea Town. Got a free newspaper, too - printed in Korean.

But I digress. So what's new?

Like I said, I like a fresh paper - one that has not been opened yet. Call me quirky, but I can't stand to sit down with a paper and have people start grabbing for this section or that section. I don't mind sharing my paper with them after I've read it, but I hate the section grabbers. I have sacrificed many hours of sleep in an effort to avoid the section grabbers. It's not that I am afraid they will read all the words off the paper, it is just, as I said, a quirk. And when I buy a paper on a trip, I always buy two - one for me to savor and one for my family to devour and destroy.

Well, I told you all of that to tell you this. Alarmingly, the fine art of newspaper reading has slowly changed over the past few years. Blame it on Al Gore, if you want to, because the dratted internet that he claims to have invented is ruining how we read the newspaper. Now almost every paper in existence - including this one - has an "online edition." People, including me, are reading the newspaper on computer screens the world over, and it's just not the same.

Let me give you a for-instance or three. There is a certain big city newspaper that I read every day - although, quite frankly, the quality of that particular publication has depreciated to the point of worthlessness, so now I read it more out of habit and obligation than anything else. But they have an online version of their paper and the articles and columns and features are posted on the Web site almost before they are out of the writers' minds, apparently. The bottom line: I sit in my chair at night with my computer in my lap - they don't call them laptops for nothing - and read "tomorrow's" paper. I still trudge up the hill to get the paper the next day, but there is not nearly as much urgency involved, and now I spend maybe 10 minutes with it instead of an hour.

Our own Citizen has been online for quite a while now, which comes in handy when I am away from home because I have been able to find out who robbed whom and which team beat which team and who died and which anonymous idiots wanted my liver stewed in bile from thousands of miles away.

Our columnists were never a part of the online edition and I sort of liked the fact that people had to actually buy a fresh paper to find out what I had on my mind.

But recently we traded a Monday edition for an updated Web site and the Perspectives section of the paper was included in the upgrade. I am now online, in other words. Quite frankly, I wasn't sure how I felt about that at first - and by "at first" I mean for about three hours, because that's how long it took for e-mails to come in from other states from folks who had friends and family mail my columns to them. I heard from people in California, Texas, and even Baghdad celebrating the fact that they could now read the entire paper online.

So I may be the last of the dinosaurs, but I am finally convinced that it's a good thing.

Now if I can only get them to print the funnies online, I won't have to get out of bed at all.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.