A good piece by Joseph Epstein, America’s finest essayist, in Commentary magazine, discusses the fate of newspapers. As you may know, the most sophisticated newspapers — who did try to do things objectively and discriminately — are nearly all, like home made ice cream, stuck on a garage shelf and collecting layers of dust. There are lots of reasons, none of which is the subject of my inquiry today, but what I’m wondering is where you get your news. I’ve got a poll, but I can’t get all the options there, so pick which one is closest. Here’s how I get mine:
First, I read the Daily Herald, our newspaper, every morning, but focus on the sports page. I read some of the front page stories. (Kris reads the newspaper more thoroughly than do I. We used to subscribe to three newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune, but we simply didn’t read them all.) Second, I watch news shows, with a random sampling of CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Third, I dig around at times, not in a consistent manner, for news on the internet: our home page is CNN. Fourth, I like to read both a liberal and conservative magazine: The New York Review of Books and Commentary magazine. I read other magazines as well, some of which inform on political and cultural issues, but these are my main sources. If I have to choose one, I get the most from cable TV.
John Wilson makes me feel like a Luddite because I don’t read that daily nest of the sophisticates, The New York Times, and he tells me why in his Books & Culture piece. I will openly admit, either to my sanity or to my ignorance, that I have never read that newspaper, except for one brief summer when I signed up for an online edition. When John heard that his friend had given up on the Times, he said it “was like hearing that a friend has sold or given away his possessions and gone to live among the poor.” Well, I thought, maybe that’s the point.
My own commentary on newspaper is that, apart from really newsy news (box scores, car accidents, local politics), one can find most of what one needs in good solid magazines — and they are often written better and carry a sustained argument. And the size of a magazine compared to a newspaper is, as the wags say, “no comparison.”
It’s a matter of time, isn’t it? And the more one reads newspapers the more one is influenced by that sort of writing and that sort of thinking and that sort of flash-news-here’s-the-basics. I prefer a gentle argument, by a good writer, on a decent size piece of paper, available so I can carry it with me and read it when I want. Magazines are dated after a month; newspapers after a day.
Where do you get your news?