I wanna be an ostrich.
July 11, 2010 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Please help me enjoy reading newspapers.

Not keeping up with current events is noticably detrimental to my job. Realistically, I should be reading one or two newspapers a day and one or two magazines a week. But I've got this seemingly insurmountable block against it.

Reasons I dislike reading newspapers:

1) I always end up sad or angry or both. There's just such a lot of crap happening that I can't do anything about. Reading the morning newspaper means that I start every work day already frustrated. For instance, I've avoided reading about the BP oil disaster because I know it'll make me feel utterly furious and frustrated and helpless.

2) It's something I should be doing. When I was a kid, my mom made me eat fruit every day. Now I am an adult, I get into power struggles with my apple. It sits on my desk every day and says, "you should eat me", and I say "nu-uh, I'm not going to". I feel the same way about newspapers.

3) I'm intimidated by the backlog. There's such a lot I don't know about I don't know if I'll ever catch up.

Things that should make it easier:
1) I am a fast reader and good at making connections between random things I read.
2) There are things I enjoy reading; mostly scientific, historical, cultural stuff, IT news or social phenomena. I just really fail when it comes to political or economic news which is unfortunately what I should be reading. And to be honest, often when I make the effort to read an in depth article I do start enjoying it as long as there is some "people" aspect to it. But it's an enormous effort to force myself into starting.
3) I have a husband who loves reading the papers and is willing to discuss and answer any question. I think I like learning about things from a person much more than I do from reading an article.
4) I feel more relaxed about online news sources. They don't feel quite as threatening.
5) I have subscribed to an ok newspaper (in paper) of reasonable sophistication.

I need some help with my attitude, or maybe some workarounds about it. Is there anything I can do to stop hating newspapers so much?
posted by Omnomnom to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of newspapers are crap and not worth reading (which is why I let my subscription to the SF Chronicle lapse). However, The Economist is perhaps the finest news and politics magazine ever. It covers the entire world (not just the US and Europe, but Africa, South America, and the far East). The articles are well written and every single issue has a headline that just makes you laugh.

I can't help you with the depressing side of things because, in case you haven't noticed, things are a little dodgy at the moment, but it is absolutely worth its high subscription price.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:34 AM on July 11, 2010

Why not read the online versions? I have to keep an eye on the news about 'boring work topic', and I just subscribed to a bunch of newpaper RSS feeds which I can scan quickly and read the most interesting of. If there's a particularly relevant or interesting story, I'll look for more opinion and comment on the newspaper website.

For general current affairs I use BBC News, which I check most days. It's less daunting than a newspaper because you can take small chunks at a time.
posted by plonkee at 8:41 AM on July 11, 2010

I don't think you really need to read two newspapers a day and a weekly news magazine. Just read the one your currently subscribed to, talk to your husband, as you're doing, and subscribe to something like Le Monde Diplomatique. It offers intelligent analysis of on-going events and issues from multiple points of view, rather than the disaster-of-the-day or week coverage you get from daylies and weeklies. and it's available on-line in multiple languages. Look for more information on-line about stories that interest you.

(Newspapers and weeklies do suck. They're sensational, inaccurate and uninsightful. Your attitude is not entirely unjustified.)
posted by nangar at 8:42 AM on July 11, 2010

Many newspapers are quite terrible. I consider myself pretty well informed on current events and I read news only online. I suggest looking into an RSS aggregator or something of the like, you can customize it for sources that you enjoy and the topics you like. Keep in mind, you don't necessarily have to read every article on a topic every day. If you see headlines like "Thing blows up in Afghanistan", "Isreal / Gaza trouble", or "BP failure" you already know the story and the specific details probably aren't particularly important.

Also, if you don't want to be sad or angry never ever ever read comments after articles.
posted by ghharr at 8:44 AM on July 11, 2010

Seconding the Economist. Never Lurgi summed up its best features well. I can add here that Economist writers are also excellent at bakcgorunding a situation in a few sentences, so that should help you get up to speed on things you're behind on.

I would also recommend getting a print subscription, rather than merely reading it online. There's something about the presentation of the magazine that makes it a joy to read, and that might help you with issue #2.

The Economist also doesn't dramatize issues, and often tries to offer up solutions (from its uppity British right-of-centre perspective, keep in mind), which might help desensitize the news for you.
posted by hiteleven at 8:50 AM on July 11, 2010

Sorry, backgrounding...horrible typo there.
posted by hiteleven at 8:51 AM on July 11, 2010

I do think Le Monde Diplomatique and The Economist are pretty impressive. Still struggling with my feelings of aversion, though.

How do you, personally, deal with the frustration of "another politician with opaque motives suggests harmful reform" or "pork futures tank, pension plans in danger". Doesn't it make you want to avoid the news?
posted by Omnomnom at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2010

It does not make much sense to suggest this or that paper or magazine unless you can read, get something from your reading, and not get bent out of shape because the world is not the way you would like i tto be. Not even sure why you must read up for your job. Why?
I truly love reading the NY Times, 7 days a week. And I have subscribed to Economist for a number of years. Well done but with lots of countries covered that I have little interest in and an overly focused view of money matters.Do you need editorials and op eds or just plain things taking place information?
posted by Postroad at 8:57 AM on July 11, 2010

Postroad, I'd rather not elaborate about my job but everyone you ask in my profession will tell you that staying abreast of the news is vital - at least one newspaper and one magazine as a rough estimate. I think I can avoid editorials, though they sometimes help.
posted by Omnomnom at 9:11 AM on July 11, 2010

3) I'm intimidated by the backlog. There's such a lot I don't know about I don't know if I'll ever catch up.

I can address this concern, at least.

I bet you'll find you catch up pretty quickly. I went from someone who didn't keep up with current events at all (in college) to having one daily newspaper subscription once I started working. I would get off work, grab a coffee, and then spend maybe an hour and a half working my way through the whole newspaper. After about 6 months, I'd say, I felt like I was pretty well informed. Most stories at that point fell into three categories:

1) They were brand new events, so I didn't feel "behind" at all
2) They were follow-ups on things I had already read about in those 6 months.
3) They were follow-ups on things that began before I started reading 6 months prior, but included background material

So don't be too intimidated by the backlog. You have to figure newspapers write with some target audience in mind, and after a few good months of thorough reading I think you'll be in that audience.
posted by losvedir at 9:38 AM on July 11, 2010

Newspapers generally suck for news these days. They're slow and stuffy.

I use google.com/news. It allows me to enter keywords for topics related to interests or industry, while still getting a general spattering of things going. At the very least I see all the major headlines and know things are happening, even if I don't know the details. This is actually a great conversation starter, as you can say "Yeah, I say the headlines about that, but didn't get a chance to the read the full story, what's going there?" Presto, instant conversation AND news update.

How do you, personally, deal with the frustration of "another politician with opaque motives suggests harmful reform" or "pork futures tank, pension plans in danger". Doesn't it make you want to avoid the news?

I stopped expecting the world to make sense or be fair. Now I watch from the sidelines with tub of popcorn and diet cherry vanilla Dr Pepper.
posted by new brand day at 9:39 AM on July 11, 2010

How do you, personally, deal with the frustration of "another politician with opaque motives suggests harmful reform" or "pork futures tank, pension plans in danger". Doesn't it make you want to avoid the news?

For me it's the articles about massacres in this or that third-world country and the like that make me feel like a spoiler Westerner whose biggest complain is that he doesn't have central air (and where I live AC is necessary for like, eight weeks a year).

So for me the news helps keep things in perspective. In your case, just feel lucky that you're not one of those people, and that (presumably) your friends and family aren't either. I tend to take the trivial annoyances of life (people who walk slow and take up all the room on the sidewalk and that sort of thing) less seriously when you see the real bad guys out there.
posted by hiteleven at 10:05 AM on July 11, 2010

Generally daily newspapers covering ongoing events are written such a way that you can read the first paragraph or two to get an idea of the story and the latest happenings, and then are fleshed out to the end with backstory information.

The value of newspapers is that they curate the news, presenting important stories and visually giving you an idea of their importance (like radio and TV), but also allow you to choose how much time to spend on each article (like internet). The downside of radio and TV is that they decide what you're going to spend your time on, which may be stupid or may just not be stuff you're interested in; while on the internet it's far too easy to read only a small universe of things and it's presented without curation. You can spend an entire afternoon of "reading the news" on Lindsay Lohan.

I'd say at first pick one hard-news article a day that you will read through until the end, and just read the first two or three paragraphs of most others. That will SLOWLY get you up to speed on individual issues without totally overwhelming you. And pick one human interest article to read through to the end. That's really my favorite part of (good) newspapers, once you're past the hard news -- one day you're reading a fascinating science article about the sex life of penguins, the next day you're reading the history of miniskirts. It's the best education you can get for the money!

(Plus, OMG, for really a very low price, they will throw a BOOK'S WORTH of words on your doorstep EVERY DAY. Crazy-awesome invention!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:13 AM on July 11, 2010

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that news is DESIGNED to stress you out. A couple different sources on health and minimalism recommend going on "news fasts" where you deliberately avoid reading news.

Coming at it from a weird angle (because I'm a weird person), you might consider:

1) Becoming comfortable with your place in the world

You are one person out of billions on the planet. The planet and its people have a lot of problems. I bet it feels wrong sometimes to be aware of all these problems, to cause some of them indirectly, and to not be working directly to solve the vast majority of them.

A friend of mine told me that everyone has to find the level they're comfortable selling out at. He accepted the fact that he was working for an imperfect institution in a imperfect society so he could be comfortable, and because that afforded him the opportunities to do the best work he could and to be part of communities where he could share his values.

2) Becoming comfortable with your job

Why do you have the job you have? If it's something you don't want to do, maybe the right answer here is "find a different job." If it's something you do want to do, remind yourself now and again of the reasons. If your job requires you to read the news, then reading the news is a means to that end whether that end is "making money", "keeping people informed", "making the world safe for X", or what have you.

3) Determine what you're supposed to be getting out of reading the news

Are you supposed to read the news so you can be a good conversation partner with clients? Is it so you can help your company react to markets that change based on what's happening? Does your company produce news or content that is expected to be topical?

Get your why and that might help you get a better how.

4) Figure out the best way to get what you're supposed to get out of reading the news, even if it doesn't involve reading the news.

If you can get by watching the Daily Show and discussing current events with people over breakfast and over cocktails, maybe you can do that.

Maybe you'll find that you can read / watch / research other things that your colleagues AREN'T and you won't just get by but excel by hitting the roads less traveled.

Don't read newspapers JUST because the mommy-lobe of your brain things you should. You know what's works for you and what doesn't. You either have a good idea of what you REALLY NEED to do and what you don't. Be creative.
posted by Several Unnamed Sources at 10:58 AM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Agree with losdevir about the three categories, once you get into it.

Otherwise, I think one of the benefits of the newspaper (having grown up with the Washington Post on the breakfast table), and now with a temporary subscription to the NY Times, is that I discover or read about stories I ordinarily wouldn't automatically be trying to look for on my own.

I've always wanted to subscribe to the Economist, but think it might be a bit overkill, what with other obligations and I already have a subscription to the Atlantic (which comes once a month but is usually fairly substantive -- with more of a focus on analysis or long-term trends).

Not sure about how to handle the depression from the news though. Perhaps you can channel it into working for what you believe in? A bit trite, but perhaps better than nothing.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2010

Could you listen to NPR instead of reading the newspaper?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:23 PM on July 11, 2010

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