Over the weekend, I had a rare opportunity to indulge in some quiet, contemplative time alone, as my husband had taken the baby to visit family in Hertfordshire for the day. Whenever I contemplate solitary activities of a Sunday, I immediately think of a bedcover strewn with the day’s news, a coffee in hand.
Before the baby, I read the news like most other hot-blooded ex-pats: online. At work, I would skim the latest headlines, whether arts or food or celebrity, and sometimes even delve a bit deeper into ‘local news.’ I was as prolific as my curiosity and natural inclination to chase after the elusive ‘common story link’ would allow. Then I would migrate over to Twitter like everyone else.
My Sunday morning in bed, which consisted of me pouring over choice bits of The Guardian, reminded me of why I prefer to read my news in print as opposed to online. I’m talking about something other than simple design, which, certainly, seems to tell the story of the news itself as it draws your eye across the pages, intimating continuity and reassuring you that time considering a point-of-view article is just as well spent as a foray into foreign policy.
There’s no denying that with print journalism, what you see is what you get. The Internet suffers because of this same equation, since what you see isn’t necessarily all that you can get. And unless you’re well versed in the intricacies of Information Architecture, you probably won’t spend too long searching for something nobody has told you to find. Most websites present a Russian doll of links that, more often than not, lead you astray – leaving you to retrace a trail of breadcrumbs just to find your way out again, let alone the information you came there for in the first place.
Without the benefit of defining sections, colours and other sign posts to tell you where to look next, online news appears as homogonous and infinite as the stars, with no natural beginning or end point, and thus gives us little incentive to plough on. Certainly, I might be more inclined to peruse a cartoon or a review of We Need to Talk About Kelvin if I see it there in front of me. I’m sure these pieces exist online as well, though I probably wouldn’t exercise my clicking finger to find one.
But even apart from these obvious differences, I believe print journalism will always win out over online news on a solitary Sunday morning, even if every news site came up with a clever design to keep me clicking. It’s the same reason why books win out over blogs, conversation over email – there is something tangible there, something that seems to grasp our own intuition and make us feel a part of something larger. There is a sentience in print that simply does not exist online.
I watch my son systematically put objects in his mouth, which is how infants get to grips with not only matter, but information, and the messages we transmit through seemingly innocuous material. The same holds true for print: inside those pages is a discourse so electric, so ‘live,’ that as you peel the fruit down to its stone, you can almost hear the thoughts of those who consume it alongside you from distant bedrooms, cafes, airports. The message is palpable.
Photograph by Alex Barth