We have given up taking the newspaper at our house. The big pile of newsprint going to the recycling every week was what convinced me to do so — that and the fact that local paper dropped Miss Manners. I can read the local paper at work, and all kinds of papers are available online. In fact, now that I do not have a physical paper to read, I pick and choose. I read columns at the Ft. Worth Star-Telegraph and the Washington Post. I get my news and editorials at the San Fransisco Chronicle. The Wall Street Journal for business news, of course. And then I go to my favorite knitting blogger,Yarn Harlot (http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/ ), Ozarque’s Journal (http://www.livejournal.com/users/ozarque/) , and my xanga subs. The local paper, while it is filled with wacky letters to the editor, Republican bias, and amusing typos, very rarely has any good knitting content.
Each of us can now have personalized news. This is nice, of course, because we can read exactly what we want to. This is also bad, because we are not exposed to a variety of viewpoints and a range of information — we just read what we already know and agree with, or at least what we are already interested in. So I am reading better papers, with fuller reportage, but fewer parts of them. The news I receive, no longer filtered by the local paper’s staff, is instead filtered by my own biases and those of a collection of bloggers chosen merely because they are a) witty and entertaining, or b) relatives. Or, of course, both.
The tendency, then, is to become more and more firmly entrenched in our opinions. When the greatest controversy I encounter is whether or not to be a yarn snob, or possibly the lasting value of ponchos, I can be secure in my prejudices, but lose the opportunity to find out that I am wrong. We can also become more and more narrow in our tastes and interests. We’ve probably all encountered people who assure us that “everyone” does this and “no one” believes that, when what they actually meant was that the ten people they pay attention to do this and don’t believe that.
The solution, at least for me, is to introduce a little randomness by allowing other people to make choices for me sometimes. In Book Group, I meet new books and authors whom I would not have chosen to read for myself. By blindly accepting Netflix recommendations every now and then, I encounter films I wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. By singing in choirs, I learn music I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. It’s a small solution to a small problem, but at least it doesn’t waste paper.