I don’t read the news.
I know this is an interesting admission to make in a forum that is, indeed, all about reading.
But I don’t read the news. I listen to the news.
Once upon a time I worked for a newspaper. In fact, I’ve worked for three newspapers. And I very firmly believe in the role of journalism in a free society. And if you had asked me back in 2001 when I started working for my college paper I would have told you that print journalism, while perhaps in an interesting place, wasn’t going anywhere. I was a firm reader of newspapers.
And now, nine and a half years later, I peruse the non-timely sections of the New York Times when one of my coworkers brings in Sunday’s paper on Tuesday. I listen to my news on NPR and augment it by every now and then taking a peek online at The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post and The New York Times. I feel more informed than I ever did when I had my local metro newspaper delivered to my doorstep three times a week. (I think the dog really misses it the most of the three of us, because she loves fetching the paper.) Before I started listening to NPR daily, the last time I felt nearly as informed was when I was copy editing for a daily paper. I scrutinized all of the day’s news — local, state and national. The writers at our paper, however, didn’t even read their own publication (or any publication at all, as far as I could tell) and were sometimes embarrassingly out of touch. So working for a newspaper doesn’t guarantee anything.
I bring this up only because a couple of my colleagues with adult children my age were lamenting this morning about how their children don’t read the paper, and how they refuse to watch television news. The only way their children get their news, my colleagues spat, is online.
I refused to get into the debate with them, as I’m sure their own children have pointed out things like how by the time the print version of the newspaper gets to your doorstep the online version of the story has been updated three or four times. Or how absolutely wasteful from an ecological standpoint it is to continue to print newspapers. Or how the online experience is more interactive and is shared more easily, lends itself to easier research and tracking, and is much easier to conduct on one’s own schedule rather than that of the newspaper publisher or television schedule. Or how ridiculous it is to expect people to be home at 6 p.m. to watch over-coiffed suits introduce sensationalized sound bites and cause concern about the latest teenage trends.
I kept quiet.
But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that these people’s children are likely much more informed than their parents. They likely get their news from a variety of sources, and are probably better informed about national and international issues than the people who insist that news needs to come from traditional local sources. If you limit yourself solely to what your local newspaper’s editor thought was important at 6 p.m. yesterday and what your 6 o’clock news producer thought would garner the most ratings, you are limiting your perspective.
Truly, I have no major beef with reading the local newspaper. I have no problem with people who like to watch the 6 o’clock news. They’re both important sources of information, especially if you’re interested in local perspective. But looking down your nose at the “new” waves of information (and truly, how “new” is it to get your news online? CNN.com has been around since August 1995 — thank you, Wikipedia) is narrow, to put it simply. And that, to me, defeats the purpose of reading news: making your world wider.