When I was young, I took especial notice to my father’s morning habits. He’d wake up, shower, put on a pot of coffee, and read the newspaper. He didn’t just scan headlines; he pored over nearly entire paper, reading most articles in the front section, followed by business, then local news, and finally sports. Of course, he read sports last in part because I’d swipe it and read the box scores. When I changed routines and he changed jobs it was a bit jarring; that routine had become a quietly joyful part of my life.
The lesson he taught me was implicit: read a newspaper every day. While I fell off during my high school years — sleeping until the last possible section took precedence — I picked it right back up in college. It help that each college I attended offered students free newspapers. Even after college I made it a point to read the New York Times online every day. It helped that I was unemployed and really had nothing better to do.
Today I still read the news every day, but in few ways does it resemble the newspapers of my youth. Instead of reading it on paper I read it on an iPad. And instead of just reading the Star Ledger or the New York Times, I use an app called Zite, which pulls stories from sources all around the internet. It is, in other words, a more well-rounded newspaper. The stories come from sources conservative and liberal, Keynesian and Austrian, traditional and progressive. Best of all, I can tell Zite what I enjoy and what I do not, so it can adapt. It’s like the Pandora of news.
Why is it important to read a newspaper every day? We can start with shedding ignorance. Looking for something with a bit more social incentive? The information we read in newspapers can start conversations with others, and those can turn into productive discussions. Reading the newspaper makes us think about the issues at hand, and when we discuss those issues we are in reality discussing ideas. There is no higher form of conversation. As the proverb goes: Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, but great minds discuss ideas.
The most important reason, however, is that remaining informed about current events is part of our duty as citizens. People in America take citizenship for granted. Yet that does not lead to a productive society. We cannot act if we do not know. We do not know if we do not actively seek information. And if we’re not acting, we’re sitting idly by while other people act and get their ways. Any fool complain, and most fools do. But productive members of society act. It’s hard to be productive if you’re not informed.
There are too many reasons to let it continue to slide. If you’re not already reading a newspaper daily, I urge you to pick up the habit. You might not notice immediate benefits — I submit that’s one reason why so few people take the time to read a newspaper every day. But it will make you better informed. It will also make you a better conversationalist, and, most importantly, a better citizen. At a time when so many people lament the direction our country is taking, isn’t the responsible move to remain abreast of the issues at all times?