Although I moved last June, work and personal concerns delayed the process of turning my (ware)house into a home. Only recently have I accomplished such basic tasks as setting up the kitchen, and am still unpacking some boxes. One thing I finally got around to doing was subscribing to a newspaper. Today my subscription to the New York Times began. Coincidentally, Apple today introduced their latest device, the iPad, which is meant to replace, among other things, the daily printed newspaper.
As I was enjoying the tranquility of reading a home-delivered newspaper for the first time in years (I haven’t had such service since my pre-homeless days), my temporary roommate/ long-term couch resident Chris was watching online videos touting the iPad. At that moment, it struck me– the experience of reading a paper online, be it via laptop, mobile phone, or, now, iPad, will never, in my mind, come remotely close to that of reading a physical newspaper. I can only speak for myself in this regard, and perhaps today is the day I officially became “old,” but when I read news online, I spend perhaps three to five minutes skimming one or two articles, then stop. I don’t enjoy the experience very much, I don’t absorb very much information, and I don’t find the format at all conducive to fostering meaningful thought or deep interest in any of the reported topics.
Conversely, when I read a physical newspaper, I do so with undistracted focus. That 30 minutes to an hour, the amount of time I typically spend engrossed in a printed copy of the New York Times, culminates not only in edification, but in a desire on my part to learn further, or to take action regarding a matter that concerns me. As an added plus, after reading the paper, I solve the crossword puzzle. Depending upon the day of the week that can take anywhere from an additional five minutes (on Monday) to an hour (Saturday) to do, and is hands down the highlight of the newspaper experience for me. I have tried working online crossword puzzles, but don’t enjoy them. Unless I can put pen (yes, I’m on of those) to paper, I lose interest; also, I like to carry the folded puzzle around with me, especially a Saturday or Sunday puzzle, and solve it in bits and pieces throughout the day.
Friends argue that online you can get news immediately. I counter with, who cares? I’m not insensitive to the plight of the people of Haiti, to take a current news story, but I don’t really care enough to need a constant stream of information regarding the aftermath of the earthquake there. If I had friends or family there, sure I’d care deeply– and I could follow that particular story closely via radio news or the internet. For the most part, I’m content to read the news each morning, and don’t care that it is not up-to-the-minute current. When Al-Qaeda blows up Mount Rushmore, sure, I’ll be glued to my computer screen like everyone else, but until then I’m content to wait a day to learn what is happening around the world.
I am of the opinion that age is a mere number, virtually meaningless in describing a person. I’ve known 20 year-olds who looked and acted as if they were in their late 30s, and 40 year-olds who were as active and vibrant as teens. Perhaps my lack of interest in the iPad, and conviction that a “real” newspaper is irreplaceable by any digital counterpart, is a sign that I have, at least in some regard, leapt from my mental 20s directly into my mental 60s. It is not the first time in my life I have eschewed some technological advancement, and instead preferred a medium deemed archaic (records v. CDs, for example), but it’s definitely the first time I’ve found the modern incarnation to be of utterly no use to me. I may not be at curmudgeon status yet, but I am starting to feel I’m a hair’s breadth and a cocktail away from becoming a latter day W.C. Fields. I acknowledge that the day is coming when a printed newspaper will be no more, and have already seen signs in the degradation of the quality of information contained therein, but until that day comes, I’ll start each day in my kitchen, with a cup of coffee and a black and white newsprint hardcopy of the New York Times.