In the days immediately following the crushing election results, I knew I needed to make changes in my life. One easy action that I took was to subscribe to a real newspaper. While I’d had an online subscription to the New York Times at some point ages ago, for the last few years I’d relied on getting most of my news through Facebook and other social media. I have a lot of conscientious friends who post a lot of interesting articles, and I had the general attitude that if the news is major enough, I’d hear about it. By and large, I did learn about a lot of events this way, and on occasion I sought out more in-depth news. In the post election fall-out, among the many, many articles I read analyzing how the election had produced results that I hadn’t been able to fathom, I read about how fake news was thriving and had played a role in spreading lies and misinformation. In fact, fake click-baity news about the election seems to have been more widely shared than actual new articles from reputable news sources.
I knew that I needed to make a stand. It wasn’t that I had realized that the news I’d been reading was fake, as I hadn’t seen the popular fake news headlines. It was more that I suddenly understood that in this world where sensationalism sells, real journalism was getting shockingly ignored. Dangerously ignored. With the coming change in administration coming, with all the disturbing hints of propaganda and revisionist history, more than ever we need real journalism to document, to investigate and to help us guard our freedoms. I had been expecting to receive something valuable without actually paying for it. Real journalists do real work, and deserve to be paid. Real news outlets need to be supported. I wanted to do my part to support this valuable industry.
I decided to subscribe to the New York Times, in large part because of the scorn directed at them by the president elect, and also because I have enjoyed many articles, editorials and stories that they have published over the years. (I may also add in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, two other periodicals from which thought-provoking articles are regularly brought to my attention.) I also decided to make the big step of getting a physical paper delivered, and not just getting the digital subscription. I did this for several reasons. For a start, getting the daily newspaper is a daily reminder that the world is moving quickly, and that important events continue to happen, even when I am too busy to read about them. I also thought that having the newspaper be a visible part of our daily lives would help the kids become more aware of the news, and learn the importance of following the news.
The big reason for me in getting a physical papers, though, was that I was reminded that I digest the news very differently in a newspaper than when I read online. Online, I will tend to only pick a few articles to read, those that most closely align with my worldview or my immediate concerns. When I have a physical newspaper in front of me, though, I get much more breadth. I flip through the pages, and read the headlines. I skim articles more quickly. And remarkably, I find myself reading more about topics that I didn’t know I would be interested in. I find myself learning more about my world, and not just my little corner of the world. While many busy days go by when I barely do more than glance at the day’s headlines, other days will find me flipping through the pages and connecting with the stories. In so doing, I feel more connected with the world.
In any case, I paid for my subscription, and within a couple of days, the newspaper started appearing on our driveway early in the morning. I looked through the paper, and gritted my teeth at so many of the stories. I read about the devastation in Syria and the plight of people in the US whose immigration status is uncertain. I read about communities torn apart by opioid addiction and about fatal plane crashes. And I read story after story about the cabinet picks of the new administration, and the many red flags that those coming into power want nothing less than to dismantle the social progress that I have celebrated these last 8 years under Obama.
On the first or second day of new delivery service, we got a call from a number with the New York Times showing on caller ID. I answered the phone to an automated message asking me to confirm that we had received our paper. When I pressed the key to indicate that we had received our paper, the automated reply cheerfully came back: “We are glad you are enjoying the news.”
“NO!” I shouted into the receiver. “I DIDN’T SAY I WAS ENJOYING THE NEWS!!!”
While I have welcomed getting the news delivered, I have emphatically not been enjoying the news.
I am, however, feeling deep appreciation and respect for the journalists and the many others whose work makes the news available.
This essay is my second entry in #52essays2017, a project to write and post an essay each week this year. To read more about the project, visit Vanessa Martir’s Blog