On Reading the News (All Of It)

In an age when consuming news at all is a daily exercise in anxiety, I find calm in an unexpected place: consuming more of it. 

Every Sunday morning, fat copies of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The New York Times land on my stoop with a satisfying thud and, over a morning coffee or an evening glass of wine, I work my way through the entirety of both of them. Putting aside my preference for the sensory experience of paper, there are several reasons why.

Print provides depth, not distractions.

Numerous studies have shown that binging on bad news can cause stress or even trauma. This seems to be especially true for intimate social-media images or cable news clips that air in real time and then endlessly loop.  A print story, appearing hours or even days after the event, provides depth free of distractions. You won’t stare at it for hours waiting for the next relevant update, or fall through a rabbit hole of clicking through for one more report, one more analysis, one more anecdote. You’ll read to the last page and then put the whole thing away.

Print stories are more memorable.

A growing body of research points to the advantages of print when it comes to comprehension and recall. Scientists at the University of Oregon found in a study of New York Times print and digital readers that print readers remember more topics, more news stories and more main points of stories.

One reason, the study authors suggest, is that online newspapers lack clues about a story’s importance. "Online readers are apt to acquire less information about national, international and political events than print newsreaders because of the lack of salience cues; they generally are not being told what to read via story placement and prominence—an enduring feature of the print product," the researchers write.

Print offers serendipity.

Unlike their digital counterparts, print newspapers (and magazines) haven’t stalked my browsing history and therefore can’t know – and can’t predict – what stories I might like. Print breaks me out of my information bubble and offers a broad view of a number of subjects. Instead of reading 12 different hot takes on that day’s “covfefe,” I’ll find my attention captured by a story I never would’ve clicked on or perhaps even seen.

Does all this mean I’m an aging dinosaur clinging to a dying medium? Maybe. I still scroll through Twitter, tune in to cable news and tax my fingers clicking through online news stories. But until they offer the same romance as the whisper of news pages, I will listen for the thud of the dailies at my doorstep.