With most news websites offering their content for free, many people solely read their news online. Consequently, we have started to accept the decline of the newspaper, with very little protest. Our consumption of books is also shifting from hardcopy to digitalised, kindle versions. Except, there are many of us, myself included, who still ardently believe in the value of the book as a physical object. People who will gladly cripple their shoulders lugging a copy of ‘Clarissa’ on their daily commute, so they can smugly waft the pages over fellow tube passengers.
But why aren’t we as impassioned about saving our newspapers? If anything, it’s a more important cause; reading news online should supplement our reading of newspapers, not replace it. They are two very different, but equally important experiences. Online, we tend to read only what we are interested in, thereby reinforcing what we already know and believe. A newspaper eliminates that choice (if you’re reading properly) and presents us with a spread of information and opinions which, even if we don’t find them interesting, are important.
I’m not saying don’t read your news online – I think it’s a fantastic tool, and probably one of the best things to happen to the media industry. It offers us immediacy and the ability to share and comment, ensuring that news is not monopolised by those that provide it. But it’s important that we keep in mind the dangers involved. Online we tend to stop questioning the origins of our news; sometimes we barely notice which website it comes from, making us more susceptible to sensationalism and false information, whereas newspapers tend to make their political allegiances relatively clear.
Reading a newspaper offers us the chance for private response; nobody can see what you have read, and you are not influenced by comments or the popularity of an article. It is both relaxing and rewarding to treat our news consumption as a proper, concentrated activity, not just a procrastination technique. I’ll concede that few people have time to read one every day, but once a week should be both manageable and enjoyable.