Reading actual paper is refreshingPublished 12:31pm Saturday, July 30, 2011
Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster
I haven’t read a newspaper in seven years. That would be uncomfortable to admit under any circumstances, but add to it the fact that I work for a newspaper and I cringe with embarrassment.
Why buy the paper when you can get the ink for free? Yahoo and Google give me the news almost before it happens. I know. I’m usually the one twirling the baton and the head of the Luddite parade. Let’s all listen to our vinyl records while we can our own jam. Later we’ll call each other on our rotary phones. So why did I abandon one of our most beloved, stalwart institutions?
Because I could. Isn’t that how it happens these days? Convenience supplants ritual and tradition because it can. It’s faster, easier and doesn’t require us to move much.
I buy the Sunday paper for the coupons, but this week a headline caught my eye, so I sat down and read the article. The absence of unwanted video blaring at me, insidious advertising crowding my peripheral vision, and the demand to tweet, share or recommend the story filled me with the unfamiliar sensations of focus and concentration. Despite all the rumors of its obsolescence, reading the newspaper felt like something new.
Instead of trying to guess what I wanted to read based on my browsing history, which would lead one to believe I only care about movies and college football, the paper laid everything in front of me and allowed me to choose what I wanted to get inky over.
I read about NASA’s goal to reach an asteroid within the next fifteen years. I thought this sounded a little too 20th century action movie until I learned that occasionally one of these really does hit the Earth and cause major damage, as in, goodnight sweet dinosaur.
Then I read a doomsday piece about the debt crisis. After I finished it I still didn’t fully grasp the financial ramifications that will ripple across the world if the government defaults on its loans, but it sounded an awful lot like an asteroid hitting the Earth, as in, goodnight sweet global economy.
After I finished reading the paper I felt satisfied in a way that I never do reading the news online because online it never ends. There is always more. It’s overwhelming and quite unnecessary. I’m not the president. I don’t need minute-by-minute briefings. I don’t need a 24-hour news cycle. A lot of the “top trending” stories, which are usually murder trials and celebrity divorces, I don’t need to know at all.
I have read portions of a lot of newspapers online, but it’s not the same. There’s something exciting about picking up a paper the day after a world changing event and seeing a bold confident headline. Can you imagine reading about the first man on the moon or the end of World War II on Google? When NASA gets to that asteroid, I don’t want ads for Flintsones vitamins and Pottery Barn blinking next to the headline “Earth saved Monday. Tuesday imminent.”
Then there’s the paperboy. I liked him. I liked it when he showed up on his bike and tossed the paper onto the wet grass nowhere near my front door. My last paperboy was a middle-aged woman in a Honda and she left the paper in the mailbox. I liked her even more. We would chat now and then the same way I would with the bank teller I no longer see and the lady at the post office I never go to anymore.
Somewhere along the way I mistakenly decided experiences had to be one way or another. They don’t. We can keep our newspapers, our brick and mortar banks and post offices yet still appreciate the ease of handling some things online. We don’t have to reduce our lives to a glowing screen, but we don’t have to ignore technology either. It’s a brave, new cool world we live in. We can tailor our daily lives to be both modern and traditional. We can have substance and convenience as we choose.
From now on I’ll do a quick sweep of the morning news online and read the newspaper in the evening. If something urgent happens, I’ll know, but the rest of the world can wait at the front door until I’m ready to let it in.
Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at alexandrakloster.com.