Friday, July 27, 2012

Why to Read the News

You need to read the news. I really mean read, in an old-fashioned paper format. Or maybe a tablet; but the bottom line is to get your hands on material which isn't filtered by concerns of push-media online, or sound-bite brevity on TV.

More and more people get their news online, or from TV. While these media can be entertaining ways to keep up with the world, and can offer some insights not found elsewhere--they are still deeply flawed. 

Online news tends to come packaged in nano-bytes that allow you to tailor what you'll see, and (more importantly) what you won't see. Online resources are stampeding to find ways to push content that is tailored to you and your expressed interests. Unfortunately, that means they are placing you in a smaller and smaller squeeze box--you only find out about what you already know.

TV news can offer serious coverage. But it's a slow way to deliver news. English-speakers cover about 175 words per minute (give or take 25%). Most readers, on the other hand, can comfortably read about twice that rate--more with speed reading, or skimming. TV news is also competing with reality shows, clever commercials, movies full of SFX--so the temptation is always lurking for TV news producers to program what's attractive, not what's important.

Reading the news in a paper format allows you to flip, skim, dig deeper, and get more out of the time you're putting in to the activity.

Why be concerned with current events? There are plenty of civic-participation reasons. (Not voting for an idiot is one.) But if you're going to hold your own in a conversation, that all-important small talk in corporate and networking life--well, what are you going to talk about? If someone raises a current-events issue--how good an impression are you going to make if the best you can offer is a deer-in-the-headlights look?

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