Newspaper is a state of mind (10 July 2007)

I'm republishing here old writings that don't totally make me cringe. This 2007 blog post, written while interning at The Santa Cruz Sentinel, strangely holds up a decade later. It's sweet looking back, with the career in new media I have now, and seeing the seeds there of something I did not yet know I had. 

"For the same reasons that I trust newspapers for my training as a writer, I trust newspapers for my news fix as a reader."

I think I upset a couple old-timers in the newsroom today. I explained to them that I hadn’t particularly noticed the teaser to the Sunday paper on the front page because, although I browse the print product to see what it looks like (and, let’s face it, see my name in print), I am unabashedly part of this new generation who only reads news online. I got stares. Me, a newspaper journalist, taking part in the downfall of the industry? I believe it’s time I explain my newspaper philosophy.

Newspaper is a state of mind. Newspaper is NOT cheap paper and runny ink. I get the nostalgia of fingertip smudges on the front page and Norman Rockwell-like delivery boys, but we all have to get past it.

Let me run you through my news routine. I typically get woken up by my cell phone beeping. That’s my weather forecast from the Columbia Missourian. As soon as I’ve regained sufficient consciousness, I listen to a couple podcasts as I get ready: always the New York Times’ front page by the fascinating voice of James Barron, and a few others depending on my mood. I check my e-mails and get daily newsletters from the New York Times and Le Monde. On my walk to work, one or two more podcasts, mainly from French public radio, NPR, the Washington Post and the Times. When I get to work, I check the Sentinel’s Web site. Throughout the day, occasionally I get breaking news alerts via email from the Times and Le Monde, and via text message from the Missourian and Columbia’s KOMU/Channel 8. A widget on my laptop lures me to more Times stories and another one allows me to listen to pretty much any French national radio station. I also have quick access to streaming video from Al-Jazeera English on my desktop. (Yeah, I know what you’re gonna say about Al Jazeera, but I still have to be shown that it’s bad journalism.) On my lunch break, I prefer video podcasts, especially from the Washington Post. For guilty pleasures, there’s Radio Lab, This American Life, On Being, and Rendez-vous avec X.

Notice that I haven’t opened a newspaper yet? But notice the sources of all this news I get: New York Times, Washington Post, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Columbia Missourian, Le Monde... Um, sounds like newspapers to me. Newspaper is a way to do journalism. I chose the newspaper sequence at the J school because I wanted the best training as a reporter and editor. Newspapers have a commitment to depth of analysis and storytelling that you just don’t find on TV, and rarely in blogs and other online news sources. (Radio is in a different category that I might get to some day.)

For the same reasons that I trust newspapers for my training as a writer, I trust newspapers for my news fix as a reader. From newspapers, I get breaking news, analysis, investigation, depth, meaning, connection and pleasure. So I might just have to strangle the next person who tells me newspapers are dying. Hold on to your journalistic principles, and stop defining yourself by wood fiber and ink.