Fractionating and Factionating

Posted on July 6, 2013

How to Fold a Broadsheet NewspaperI miss my morning newspaper.

I still read the “paper” of course: a screen of pixelated words I pull up every morning on an iPad. Or, in the case of the Wall Street Journal and FT, at the office on a desktop.

But it’s not the same thing. And the reasons have nothing to do with some Luddite nostalgia for newsprint.

Sure I miss the sound of the rolled up paper dropping on the stoop, the anticipation of reading the lead story, rifling through to the op-ed page, scratching at the crossword with pen or pencil.

I miss that skillful flick of the wrist with which subway riders in New York or Paris could take their Times or Figaro and artfully work their way through its intricate narrow column-width folds like a child’s Origami fortune teller. (When I tried it I usually came close to taking out the eye of the commuter sitting next to me.)

And after it was read it was dumped in a corner where it came in handy to house train the dog. The other day I piled wood up on the grate and then looked in vain for a paper to start a fire.

I don’t miss the newsprint… or those inky smudges on my fingers that invariably transferred to my white shirts and my khaki pants and pretty much everything I touched the rest of the morning.

But I do miss the content. Not the content of the headlines that I looked for, or the sections that the editors have chosen to organize stories in categories of interest: “US,” “World,” “Politics,” “Business,” “Arts.” But the content that I did not expect, the stories that I was not looking for.

Many people have complained about the way that cable news channels have led to a degradation in public discourse. Arguably the network news anchors reached a broader political spectrum and hence were obliged to deliver a balanced, apolitical view of events. With cable came channels that appealed to narrow political viewpoints. Viewers are often exposed to viewpoints that are consistent with their preconceived notions and so are less likely to be exposed to contrary points of view.

Call it the fractionating – and factionating – of news.

One can argue that the network news stations were never balanced. And I can vouch for the fact that at least this news junkie watches numerous and conflicting cable stations.

But whether or not cable is politicized, online newspapers have become trivialized. Even a highly politicized and polarizing paper would be a relief if one could find in its columns and pages unexpected news and features.

I suppose I could click my way through all of the sections, scroll through the stories, read stories of interest. But though a headline may catch my attention I have no way of judging a story’s length. The section’s editor has no way of communicating to me – by its placement on the page – how noteworthy it is. Pictures or graphics that used to draw me to a particular story are invisible until I click on the story … which I probably now won’t read!

Alright, it’s time. I will revive the subscription to the real newspaper. I may not be able to keep the buggy whip factory going.  But I might be able to keep those rotary presses working a little later into the night.


Posted in energy efficiency, Solar News, sustainability

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