Monday, November 07, 2016

Reading the News That Someone Saw Fit to Print

You have a very important duty right now. It's a simple act, but a vital one. Please do this one thing, before it is too late. 

I refer of course, to this: you should get a newspaper subscription. 


You should have got one long ago, but many of you have not done so. Many of you haven't touched newsprint since you were a small child paging through the paper your parents subscribed to, looking for the comics or Dear Abby or movie listings or maybe not even those because maybe you didn't start going to movies until Moviefone already existed. 

Lest you think this is a screed against millennials, though, I know there are a whole lot of Gen X-ers and Boomers out there, too, not bothering to subscribe to any newspaper anymore. 

Let's fix this. 

Commentator David Frum of The Atlantic spoke well about this on the most recent episode of Bill Maher's show. It's become so trendy, somehow, to bash "The Media" and reject all institutions. But really, that generalization betrays your ignorance and is a terrible idea. Rejecting institutions leads to a vacuum, which nature abhors, and which nature or TV then fills with DonaldWTFTrump. David Frum argued that young people's rejection of all institutions ("it's all corrupt!" "the mainstream media" "sick of all politics" etc.) have directly resulted in this debacle in which the malicious, manifestly unfit Trumpface is being considered a legitimate candidate for president of the U.S. 

I would hasten to add that a lot of people have been using the words "media" and "journalists" over the last few months when what they actually mean is "cable news networks breathlessly trying to outdo one another in a quest for the most salacious and shocking story that will draw ratings."

Newspapers, on the other hand, can calm down a little bit. And you can calm down a little bit when you read them. 

If you conflate TV newscasts, especially the "surrogate-from-the-right-plus-surrogate-from-the-left" or "fair and balanced" variety, with dogged newspaper journalism, you need to run right out to your local library and pick up a copy of Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, followed by a few Marshall McLuhan books.

And then you need to come home, read those books, and subscribe to a newspaper.

Reading the newspaper each morning, or each evening, is a nice habit. 

Reading your local paper will put you in touch with your community in ways you might not have imagined. It will do the same thing for news of the nation and of the world. 

But, you say, you do read articles published by the newspaper, on its website. Well. Besides the fact that you are offering no part of your finances whatsoever to said publisher, you are also picking and choosing from links or, more likely, from among what got shared the most that day on social media. 

Reading the actual newspaper, divided into sections, laid out by editors -- by professionals, that is -- gives you perspective that you don't get on your smartphone. 

If anyone out there wants to try the whole "But I'm saving trees by not reading a newspaper!" argument, let's just stop that nonsense right here and now. 

First of all, no, I do not for one second believe that's why you don't subscribe to a newspaper. But secondly, for all two of you out there who do legitimately use that reason, and for all the rest of you who have replaced paper news with electronic news for your convenience, you need to seriously come to an understanding of the toll your electronic devices take on the environment. 

I mean for one thing, they require electricity to run AT ALL. Electricity means trees die. Constant electricity. I would love it if we lived in a world full of solar, wind, and other renewable energy power. We don't. We live in a world where coal mining decimates entire mountaintops. Trust me, forests, animal species, and more are dying for you to use all your electricity. 

Not to mention the planned obsolescence - your tablets, laptops, and smartphones are designed to become obsolete as soon as possible so that you'll buy another smartphone. Not only are we wasting tons of resources and energy making the things in factories, but we have actively set up a system that they are not meant to last after expending all those resources, and emitting all that factory pollution -- so we get to deplete more resources and pollute even more within just a year or two. And everyone will happily rush out to "update" their products. 

But you won't buy newspaper, which is one of the easiest things to recycle and which is often printed on recycled paper as well? 

Everyone knows that after this election, you will need something. Mr. Frum and I would like you to consider that the something you need is a newspaper subscription. 

Call now. 

(Or just order it online.) 

And order one for a friend, too. Call it an early holiday president. 

Make the world a better place, in this one tiny way. 

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