I don’t know if I have a year theme, but I am on a kick of swapping in new habits, cutting things out, and seeing if there are better ways of doing what I’ve unconsciously done for years. maybe it’s a season of reconfiguring.
I enjoyed and repeated to a good bit from this article about reading newspapers instead of online news:
Now I am not just less anxious and less addicted to the news, I am more widely informed (though there are some blind spots). And I’m embarrassed about how much free time I have — in two months, I managed to read half a dozen books, took up pottery and (I think) became a more attentive husband and father.
That all sounds nice. there may be something to it, and there may be a good newspaper out there that accurately fills this role. But it isn’t any of the papers I’ve ever read.
I’m a layout guy. I work in InDesign all day, so I might have a niche view of this. Newspapers are ugly and horribly laid out. Stories begin on one page and continue six pages later. And whats in between them? Ads, largely. Ugly ads. Ads with no idea who I am or what I’ve searched amazon for this week.
But visuals aren’t everything. I find it difficult to follow newspaper-speak, that quasi-objective tone of voice that gives equal credence to “both” sides of stories. It’s dull, and I don’t feel like I’m getting the truth, but a safe version of things.
There’s a great Chuck Klosterman essay (speaking of nonfiction writers with an actual voice and point of view) about how paper stories generally come together. I think it’s in “But what if we’re wrong” but my kobo didn’t save the note I made and now I can’t find the quote. But Klosterman lays out why newspaper articles are written the way they are, and it made me never want to read another one.
Now, I will concede that the Times article makes a lot of good points about the negative effects of getting ones news from social media. I think we all flock there not just because the news is faster, easier, and free, but is also generally brought to us by a (severely flawed, horribly reactionary, outright insane) human being. And that, even when it stresses us the fuck out, is preferable to the dullness of traditional newspaper writing.
I realize I just made the case for Newsweek. I have a texture account. I read that sometimes (it’s typography has improved since it went web-only). But Newsweek (or MacLean’s, if you’re Canadian) isn’t the answer. Better writing is the answer.
But yeah, I don’t think newspapers are gonna stick for me. Also, smudges. Gross.