Newspapers: Refusing to let go

More and more newspapers are disappearing. Not enough young readers. Not enough middle-aged readers. Not enough advertisers. “We can read it on line,” I hear. And, “I’ve given up reading newspapers, they just overwhelm me with bad news.”


Would you give up going to the grocery store because cinnamon rolls make you fat? Didn’t think so.

Reading on the Web takes 25 percent longer than reading on the newspaper, so it’s not the time it takes to read a newspaper. It’s the depth of the news. We don’t want to know the details, we want the overview or the bottom line, the stuff in the middle is too hard to figure out.

Oddly enough, it is not too hard to figure out the complexity of celebrity coupling, uncoupling and sniping–in 2009, according to Google, “Michael Jackson” was the most searched name, followed by “Susan Boyle.”  Swine flu was a meager third. (I know, it’s not a name, but it is an interesting progression.)

What about the bad news accusation? We can’t read the newspaper because of all the bad news? Then why are we scooping up magazines that overflow with celebrity scandal, rehab and failure? Why are reality shows–the worst of the bad news–so popular? It’s not the bad news we fear. It’s the lack of control over our lives.

In the end, the “Sad Jen,” “Bad Kanye,”  “NBC Comedy slugfest” triangle is worse than our lives, and we can walk away from it, but we can’t walk away from rampant disease, political treachery, and endless, groundless wars. We are part of them. We voted, we didn’t vote. Either way, we had a hand in it. And we can’t control it all. We can’t even control some of it. So we don’t want to know about it.

Our need for control works when we over-schedule our own time, our kids time, our pet’s time. But we turn away from the news because we feel we have to fix this mess and don’t know where to start and don’t want it on our desks. Or worse, our conscience.

I’m in full agreement that if you are too plugged in to news, reading headlines, catching up on reports on your cell phone or PDA, a break is necessary. No would blame you for turning off the TV, radio, CD and DVD players and crawing into bed. A little rest is good for everyone.

The next day, however, it’s time to start thinking. Maybe you can’t solve the world’s problems, but not knowing is different from not wanting to know. Being informed keeps you from blaming yourself, but it helps you make better choices, better votes, and a better environment. And while you can’t solve the world problems, you can do tiny things with enthusiasm. They add up. If we all do it, we can save the world.

In this super-connected world, wouldn’t you pay to have the latest news brought to your doorstep, complete with interesting photos, summaries in the first paragraph, readers leaving comments, and gossip? It’s not out of your reach, a daily paper delivered is less than $5 a month in most cities. Before they become extinct, before you lose control, grab a newspaper. Read it. Do one thing.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and life coach. She reads newspapers at the kitchen table every morning, then reads a few more online.