I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

I have been reading the newspaper continuously since I was twelve years old. Well, not literally “continuously”—that would just be weird.  Although probably eligible for a Guinness World Record.

No, when I say continuously, I mean that I have read a daily newspaper for the last several decades. When I’m traveling, I may be reading it on my computer, but I’m still reading it.  My only “lapse” was for about 90 days as I began my freshman year in college.

So what happened when I started college? I had this perception that my life was going to change dramatically as a college student (which was correct) and that reading a daily newspaper would no longer be something that was important to me.

And for the chaotic first few months of college, the last thing I thought about was the news. It felt odd not reading the paper, but my life had become dramatically different than it had been at home.  Not reading the daily paper was a small adjustment compared to the larger adjustment of being away from home for the first time in my life.

But then one day I was talking with some friends and one of the guys said something about famed television show host Ed Sullivan. And I said, “Well, maybe one day he’ll come and speak on campus.”  And someone said, “Well, that would be difficult, in that he’s dead.”   Everyone laughed.

And I argued, “Ed Sullivan is not dead. What are you talking about?”  And someone else piped in with, “Yes, he is.  He died about a month ago.”  And then someone proceeded to make another joke questioning how anyone would even know, based on Sullivan’s very stiff appearance.

But I wasn’t laughing. The implications of not reading a daily newspaper hit me like a ton of bricks.

Was this a big story? Not at all.

Was this huge news? Not at all.

But was this something I would have known had I been reading the daily paper?  Absolutely.

I was experiencing a variation of what’s referred to today as FOMO—the “fear of missing out”—except that this was a “fear of missing out on the news.”

I always prided myself in knowing what was going on in the world—not just the big headlines, but also the nuances and trivia and smaller stories. This wasn’t just for making small talk at parties.  This was for my own desire to better understand how whatever was going on in my life was part of something much bigger.

I immediately began a subscription to The Gainesville Sun, the local paper for my college town.  It paled in comparison to the Miami Herald I had grown up with—and the Tampa Bay Times that I ready today—but it still would have had Ed Sullivan’s death in there, along with all of the other stories I was missing each day.  And other than those brief three months of going “newspaper-less”, I have never stopped reading a daily paper.

So why, in this age of instant news, 24-hour cable news, breaking stories tweeted in real time, would a newspaper have any value whatsoever?   There are several reasons:

First, a newspaper gives you a broad spectrum of news that you may be interested in….but, more importantly, news you may not normally be inclined to read.  By reading most of the stories in a daily paper, you are giving yourself a very well-rounded immersion in what’s going on in the world.

I believe that internet headlines give you the “need to know” bare-bones info—but a daily newspaper gives you the “good to know” information that can help you navigate your life much better. When you understand a little bit about what’s going on nationally, regionally, locally, in business, the arts, sports, and everything in between, you are much better equipped to live your life successfully

Secondly, a newspaper gives you a much more in-depth look at the stories you’re most interested in. I realize by the time you’re reading a newspaper, the stories are a day old.  But I find that a newspaper consistently gives you more details, better details, and smarter analysis of any story than you’ll get from most internet sources.

Thirdly, a newspaper sometimes has “the scoop” on some amazing local event that you won’t see anywhere else. Now don’t get me wrong.  Newspapers aren’t the only source for great information.  I’m on e-mail lists for the latest news from many organizations and am constantly scouring on-line newsfeeds.  But I can tell you that there have been countless times that the FIRST place I saw information on some exciting opportunity was in the newspaper—and took advantage of that—before it appeared in other media.  (Or never did, as is often the case.)

Many politicians and comedians embrace the idea of reading several newspapers a day. I don’t think you need to read several papers daily, unless it’s important to your profession….or you’re preparing to be on Jeopardy.  (In which case, Wikipedia may be more useful than the paper.)  But I would suggest that you entertain the thought of reading a daily newspaper and see how it broadens your understanding of the world.

And, if nothing else, you’ll enjoy the comics. Most of them are very funny—and you’ll get some daily laughs much faster than watching a YouTube video.