Worth reading

Which is better, reading a print newspaper or getting the news online?

Picture of international newspaper kiosk in Paris France, source Wikipedia
International newspaper kiosk in Paris, France. (Source Wikipedia)

This article in The Guardian says print, every time.

I agree. The reading experience is better.

Digital media read differently. With the New York Times, for example, online there’s no longer a clearly defined daily edition. Stories may be featured for several days so if you read it daily, there’s an annoying redundancy, and if you don’t read it every day, you can’t be certain what’s current.

Sections are also more fluid. Web pages linked from side bars or footers offer “related” stories on an assortment of topics. When you’re finished one article, you’re as likely to flip to another topic area as stay with the business or arts section you were on. It’s like an invitation to ADHD.

Online, it doesn’t matter how big your digital viewing screen, the page is truncated. Text is too small or too big, runs off the page.

And much of your time is spent clicking and scrolling, basically wayfinding. It’s like being lost in the woods; you are hardly going to stop to take in the view when you don’t know where you are or how to get home.

In a print newspaper, you read bits here and there too, a headline here, a paragraph there, but you always have a sense, reinforced by your peripheral vision and the feel of the paper in your hands, of where you are, how much or little there is of that article, and where it fits in the editorial scheme of things, above the fold or below.

Online, “home” is just a metaphor. It might as well be a randomly selected page. They might call it a front page but it is not a front page. There is no prominent title/name, no heft as with a 13″ x 26″ piece of paper backed up with 50 to 100 or more solid pages of content, no table of contents.

Fundamentally, online, once you get there, there is no there there, as Gertrude Stein once quipped, there is no “whole” to be taken in at a glance, no fathomable project to begin, no sense of what completion would consist of, what you might get out of it.

Instead we have an unfathomnable, bottomless pit of more or less undifferentiated stuff casting around for a reason to be. I’m sorry, but we, the readers, cannot alone provide that reason. We look to newspapers to help us make sense of the world, as a tool that helps us formulate opinions, and ultimately make decisions.

No wonder, as Neil Thurman has found, people read on average 30 seconds of news online each day, compared to 40 minutes immersed in a newspaper. And no wonder somebody can dismiss it all as “fake” and, though it is puerile and ignorant, we are relatively powerless to contradict them. There IS something wrong with the news; it may not be the news itself so much as the failing digital media. All spectacle, you can call it what you want. It’s just a show.

Now, which is the best paper? For me, in order of quality, importance and scale; the New York Times, Guardian, Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press, Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, and our own very local Sioux Lookout Bulletin.

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