Making easy choices with reading and TV

Published 9:01 am Friday, July 18, 2008

One of the talents I was once exposed to was something called speed reading. The person promoting this method was working on a master’s degree. His great idea was to read the first and last sentences of a paragraph and quickly scan over the words in between. He said the first sentence was like an introduction to a new thought and the last sentence should be considered as a summary. The words in the middle portion of the paragraph were just filler material.

I never did find out if this person ever received his advanced degree for what might be considered to be a rather weird theory. However, through the years I’ve developed my own method for the reading of books, magazines and newspapers. I call it selective reading. I have a strong hunch this is the method most people use for their reading.

Here’s an example of what this method involves:

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Not long ago I happened to check out a rather thick magazine from the local library that originates up in the Twin Cities. This particular magazine is just overloaded with advertising and supposedly special sections. Anyway, I quickly passed through all the pages with ads, paused just long enough to detect the themes of several articles, and finally found an article which had been prominently promoted on the magazine’s cover. This article was really interesting, and I carefully read it from start to finish. Incidentally, I didn’t use the alleged speed reading method mentioned in the first paragraph.

This article was situated in the middle part of the magazine. A quick scan of the rest of the publication clearly indicated it had plenty of ads, plus restaurant reviews and other space fillers. I took the magazine back to the library.

When it comes to magazines and newspapers, other than the Tribune, I carefully consider the headlines and photos. Then a quick decision can be made to either read the article or news item or continue the sometimes futile search for something more interesting. At the present time anything political or publicity about an allegedly famous person is what I gladly skip over in favor of something more meaningful.

In the previous paragraph I mentioned the Tribune. Here I read as much as possible of each edition on the days I report for work. This comes about because one of my assignments involves proofreading.

It’s amazing in our nation with all its problems that a few people have egos based on all too much publicity. For them, even really bad publicity seems to be heaven-sent. For those sorry sad sacks and their publicity agents, I have just two words, selective reading. With this method I can devote my limited time to reading something a lot more important and ignore their stupidity.

This concept of selective choices can also be used with television viewing. Now, in an era with a wide array of channels available for folks to watch, there should be a better selection of programming. Yet, we still have two challenges to contend with. One is to find something interesting to watch. And the second is based on all those commercials.

There’s a sad situation regarding the finding of an interesting program to watch. About the time one relaxes and gets immersed with the telecast’s plot or entertainment factor, a series of commercials pop up on the screen.

At this point my attention span is interrupted. Then it’s a matter of suffering with those messy commercials or surfing the channels for something else to watch. As a result, I either find another program to watch, or come back to the original channel for the resumed program and watch until the next series of commercials make their unwanted interruption and the channel surfing is again activated.

If channel surfing doesn’t produce anything else worth watching on the boob tube, one can always use the selective reading method to relax with a good book, magazine and maybe even a newspaper. Then again, this selective method could be used to find something interesting to listen to on the radio.

Ed Shannon’s column had been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.