February 1st, 2013 marked the first day in my adult life where no newspaper thwacked against my door in the predawn chill. Ignoring the telemarketers trying to woo me back, I’m giving the paper boy a pass and experimenting with new ways to get my news.
Admittedly, newsprint is still my preferred medium, especially with good coffee flowing through my veins, and--listen up, guys I live with--the TV turned off. But chances to chill have become rare.
In the early parenting years, paper reading degenerated to rereading the same sentence 20 times while my coffee got cold. Today, my son needs me less. But life hasn't slowed down and I still hardly ever get to read anything in that focused, beautiful way. As 2012 closed, I faced facts. We were recycling days’ worth of newsprint no one had read and I thought, ‘Why not ditch it and see what happens?’
It’s early days, but so far, getting my news fix is kind of fun. It involves a salad of methods: nightly TV news; online publications and websites; Facebook and real-time chatter with friends; bits of NPR and CBC radio; blazing headlines at the grocery checkout; crunched up notices in my son’s backpack; some print magazines; and the fat papers we grab at the hockey rink on weekends.
Some observers see disaster in this scattershot consumption, that social media especially, is destroying our attention spans and encouraging us to eat only dessert (i.e., let’s skip Syria and go straight to the Kardashian baby bump news).
Other pundits disagree. Traditional newspapers, they argue, claim to contain a balanced day's helping of global news but are actually products of large media outlets with various biases. (I got a perspective on this in the 1990s while volunteering for a year in Kenya in refugee advocacy work. I encountered victims of civil war and genocide, slum dwellers, and street children, as well as amazing grassroots-level activists. A lot didn't get covered back home. As I learned, North American media outlets are simply disinclined to pick up too many offshore stories, no matter how compelling.)
Social media defenders say the digital age is democratizing news, bringing us the type of unconventional and far-flung stories most media outlets have long ignored (an example here is the story of young Pakastani girl Malala Yousafzai which got a tremendous boost on social media).
Is it the better way? I’m still undecided. My paperless news diet is tasty but I haven’t shaken the feeling stuff is going to fall through the cracks. Will a daily paper thud back onto our veranda ever again? That remains to be seen.
How about you? Where do you get your daily news fix?
Are your habits changing?