Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Start Spreading the Newspaper

I largely gave up the morning newspaper when we got home wi-fi.

Clicking on the laptop enables me to view up-to-the-minute share prices instead of wondering how much they've moved since yesterday's close. I can read my favorite columnists and the dozens of readers' reactions right below them, instead of trying to remember a week later what article the letter to the editor is referring to. Information is in color, often with video and sound, not on a flat sheet of black and white.

Lately, however, I've rediscovered the pleasure of newsprint. I like spreading the paper over the table. I can surveil the printed page much faster than I can scroll down a screen. The editor's placement of the articles, pictures, headlines, and even ads stimulate contemplative thought in a way that glowing pixels do not.

By the way, I also like that there are no ads on the front page. Newspaper people know that news takes precedence over commerce, a value to which few home page designers seem to subscribe.

There are lots of other reasons to love papers: spilling coffee on them isn't a catastrophe, they're good for lining animal cages and sopping up messes, and a rolled-up paper functions well as an emergency bugswatter.

But most of all, while I can get lost in an article or section of the newspaper for a few minutes, I'm not distracted for hours clicking on endless nested links.

As Peggy Noonan wrote on William Powers and the wisdom of Seneca: "much of life is beginning to resemble a plant that never puts down roots." It's ironic that rootlessness may be remedied at least partially by a conscious effort to consume one's information off of the product of dead trees.

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