Down With the White Pages!

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Brad Plumer, responding to a Clark Williams-Derry philippic against the white pages, says:

In the age of Google and unlisted cell phones, paper phone directories are being used less and less: One Gallup survey found that, in 2008, just 11 percent of households actually relied on them. Yet the vast majority of states still have laws mandating their delivery.

True enough. But when was the last time you used Google to look up a phone number? Sure, I do it occasionally, but not all that often, really. Rather, my guess is that the decline of the white pages is due mostly to ubiquitous auto dialers, email, and social media. Electronic phone books allow you to easily store hundreds of numbers and always have them at your fingertips. Email means that you have an alternate way of contacting someone you don’t know well (and also an alternate means of asking for a phone number if you want to talk). And social media means that you have easy access to a much wider circle of acquaintances than you used to. I’d guess that these are the real reasons that so few people use the white pages anymore.

But who cares? Either way, it’s probably time to get rid of them.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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