It wasn’t decided. There was no ‘aha’ moment. I did not pick a date, have an epiphany, or realise before it’s too late. I struggled throughout, but I can say, pretty confidently, I’ve mostly not read the newspaper for a year.
It’s not that big a deal. People have been doing it for decades. They’ve been getting their news, their advertising fill (for you have to be on top of that too), from the television for a long time; the radio before that. Sales of physical newspapers have decreased further with people reading or watching or listening to the news on their devices. The media industry struggled with it for a while, until they realised they could slip in advertisements in clickable format next to ‘normal’ advertising, whilst providing articles and videos of what people were really there for. Even if I hardly read a newspaper as a newspaper for a year, didn’t mean I escaped the culture entirely.
It has always been a habit. Even back when only the comics, kids’ pages and malted drinks adverts interested me. It’s like a mini-book, if you read it cover to cover in detail, which I can’t say I have ever done, though it usually takes me an hour to read to my satisfaction. Apart from the times I’ve moved, I’ve usually had, at least, one paper delivered to my door step. More importantly, it has always been a ‘morning ritual’. First thing I do after brushing my teeth is sit down with the paper. Gentlemen used to have it ironed back in the day, and though that seems like a stretch to me, I can appreciate the tactile and olfactory sensation of a fresh, crisp paper. It is a great way to begin a day, by knowing what happened the day before.
I don’t really know why I stopped. I can usually take it, all the extremes of it. The horrible things that happen, the blindingly colourful advertising, the sometimes confusing layout. I have a reading preference, but I don’t swear by any particular establishment. Typos aggravate me, but I, myself, am susceptible to it given our text-based lifestyles, and can forgive it in professionals working under a deadline.
But, I did stop. Around this time, last October, I could see the papers piling up unread. I blamed it on being busy with the festive season here in India, but how hard is it to make time for going through a paper? Many have done it in less than two minutes for years. Maybe, because I tend to read more, I can’t bring myself to do with less.
And then, the piling became the issue. I’d tackle four or five at one go on a free afternoon, and then give up when I’d only been through three. Articles would interest me, but I was too pressured by the rest to read them, unless I absolutely had to. I would read the day’s paper sometimes, but The Pile of previous papers would still look at me accusingly. I thought about cancelling my subscription several times, thinking I depend on Google for most of my info anyway. But, I didn’t. I was optimistic that I would go back to normal. I am still optimistic. I was not well enough to read last Sunday’s newspaper, but today, I did do it, cover to cover.Though two from last week are in The Pile.
For those of you in fields where the news is essential, be it journalism, finance, sports etc., doing something like this would be unthinkable. Why not switch to video or Google permanently? That way, I could read hundreds of articles, from all view points on any topic.
But, selectivity can actually be an issue. Sure, we’re often bombarded with links and suggestions of stories that don’t interest us, even irritate us (I hear Miley Cyrus can be blocked from your Google search results if you wish to), but having it all laid out in front of you, without choice, makes you, at least, consider the piece.
I’ve never been able to muster much interest in sport. Both as a player, and as an angry spectator. But, it’s the news I read first, because I like to move from what least interests me, to what most interests me. But, it didn’t help that I smiled blankly, like an idiot, everytime anybody discussed the Olympics. It took me a while to see why something to do with Pokemon (which I never understood anyway. Is it a cartoon?) was so important to people, as important as anything important.
I missed much of the important too. Even trivial things, like sales on websites where I could have bought something I really needed. I bought a trendy phone at the behest of someone I know (though, in the phone world, it stops being trendy in two seconds or so), and everybody around me knew more about it than me.
Of course, I did read up on the really important stuff. Though, it was mostly on Google, not the sad, folded thing that had been warming a chair. Even when I sold the newspaper-wallah old issues to be recycled as he pleases (usually, they use it in construction and to make paper bags), I was ashamed of the ones that had clearly not been broken into. It said something about me as an educated, aware, connected person, or the impression I give of it anyway.
There were positives, though. I was definitely more cheerful. I wrote a blog post called Of Reading The News, where I talked about how it would all emotionally affect me. I don’t want to be less sympathetic, but sitting in your living room being upset doesn’t always solve the problem.
I also spent less. I have never been a reckless spender, but I saved even more in the past year. It’s the festive season, and I haven’t even bought any clothes despite endless advertising. Most of all, I listened to people more. When talking about current affairs, we fight for having our own say, usually based on whatever news source we prefer. Because I had to pretend to know it, I could listen to everyone’s views without anybody patronising me. I got my fill in the way people used to, which is from other people.
I don’t want to give up the habit. I have a vision of myself at 70, sitting with the paper first thing in the morning in my cosy chair by the balcony. Of picking several up as I flit through different time zones in airplanes. It might seem like nothing, especially when you have an incomparably vast amount of current information coming at you as you swipe a mobile screen, but it centres me. It is a great organizational tool, because you can leave it to the editors to know what information is relevant to know, whether it interests you or not. Just go easy on the real estate and junk food ads, if any editors are reading this.
Do you read newspapers? Where do you get your news?
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