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Papers sell out as readers seek Obama keepsakes

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | 6:10 p.m. CST; updated 7:17 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 5, 2008

NEW YORK — Newsstands from Seattle to New York quickly sold out of Wednesday's papers declaring Barack Obama the nation's first black president as some jubilant customers picked up two, three or even 30 copies as keepsakes.

The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune in Obama's hometown were among papers that restarted their printing presses to produce hundreds of thousands of additional copies across the country.

Entrepreneurs were seeking as much as $200 for the Times on eBay Wednesday.

"Own a piece of history," Walter Elliott said as he hawked 90 copies of The Sun from a Baltimore street corner.

Some papers devoted their entire front pages to a single photo of Obama — in the San Francisco Chronicle's case, overlaid with "OBAMA" in enormous type and a snippet from his acceptance speech: "Change has come to America." USA Today declared, "America makes history."

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland offered high-quality reprints of the front page for $54.95. Below the headline "Change Has Come," a close-up of Obama covers three-fourths of the page.

John Penley, a white man who recalled drinking out of the "wrong" water fountain as a kid in North Carolina, searched New York's Lower East Side on Wednesday for papers to mark an event he never dreamed possible in his lifetime.

"There was one copy left at the bodega around the corner, and people were actually fighting for it," said Penley, a retired photojournalist. "I can't find a copy of any paper anywhere."

At New York's Port Authority bus terminal, Ralston Montaque grabbed 30 copies of the Times for family and friends.

"Everybody has to read (the news), brother," he said.

Say what you want about the Internet replacing printed newspapers, but saving a copy of a Web page on a disk isn't the same.

"What it really shows is there's a unique value to print," said Steve Hills, The Washington Post's president and general manager. "It's the ability to look at the whole thing and have a piece of history in your hands."

A newsstand in Evanston, Ill., sold 100 copies of the Times in 10 minutes — even as the major local papers, the Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, rushed to print hundreds of thousands of extra copies.

A convenience store in Mineola, N.Y., saw many new faces.

"I never saw papers sold with such a spirit," said Kirit Patel, who operates the store. "I saw some customers who never buy a paper, but today they bought two copies. They were asking for more papers."

In Miami's predominantly black Liberty City, newspapers were sold out at stores all along Martin Luther King Boulevard, where residents wore Obama T-shirts and waited for buses on corners with hand-painted quotes from the civil-rights leader.

"I've got to put this in a frame because this is history," said Larry Johnson as he searched for a newspaper cover of Obama.

In Miami's diverse South Beach neighborhood, Books & Books manager Vivienne Evans said customers lined up outside even before the store opened.

"People were breaking down the door," she said.

Papers all over the country found crowds of customers outside their buildings clamoring for copies.

The Times decided to print another 75,000 copies for sale in New York as vending machines and retail stores sold out by midmorning. The Tribune restarted its presses for an extra 200,000 copies — 10 times more than the increase it had planned. The Washington Post decided at midday to publish 350,000 copies of a slimmed-down commemorative edition.

Some papers, such as USA Today, plan to sell reprints of Wednesday's edition through their Web sites.

Many people set aside papers declaring the end of World War II and some still have them stowed away. Others have held onto papers marking the birth of a child, the completion of a marathon, the arrival of a new millennium or the news of tragedies such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In Philadelphia, vendors reported that the election issue was selling better than the commemoration for the Philadelphia Phillies' recent World Series championship.

Washington, D.C., newsstand vendor Tony Portillo refused a tempting offer.

"I got a guy who wanted to buy the whole bundle," Portillo said. "I said, 'I can't sell it. I have more people coming. I'll sell you five.'"

At News World in downtown Washington, customers sorted through papers from Boston, Houston and other cities after the Post and Times sold out.

"I got what they had left," said Michael Garner, clutching a copy of The Washington Times as he exited the congested store. He said he planned to frame the front page.

One customer wanted anything that had a picture of Obama's family, while Antoine Napel from Senegal picked up copies of the French newspaper Le Figaro and the Spanish-language La Libertad.

In Cambridge, Mass., the supervisor at Out of Town News regretted he didn't order more.

"If I realized who was going to win, I would have had a lot more papers. I wasn't sure," Richard O'Connor said. "Not slighting Senator McCain, but if he had won, I don't think the sales would have been as great."

Robert Cornelius' U.S. Army footlocker already contains his military discharge papers and yellowed articles on the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy in the 1960s. The 63-year-old Chrysler retiree plans to make room for copies of Wednesday's Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.

"I got them this morning and only paid 50 cents apiece," said Cornelius, who found his copies at a neighborhood market in Detroit. "They are going to be something to pass on to my grandchildren. It's something they can read and say, 'Granddaddy was there.'"

Sarah Brumfield in Baltimore, Kantele Franko in Cincinnati, Mark Lennihan in New York, Caryn Rousseau in Chicago, Frank Eltman in Mineola, N.Y., Kelli Kennedy in Miami, Ron Todt in Philadelphia, Brian Westley in Washington, Jay Lindsey in Boston and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this story.

 

 


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