'Get News. Not too Quickly. Avoid Social.'

What does our community think about Manjoo’s NYTimes piece "For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.”

March 8, 2018

Part of me wants to cheer on Farhad Manjoo in his recommendation to disconnect from social media and re-connect with legacy print news.

In his NYTimes piece For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned., Manjoo relates the benefits of moving towards a diet of paper newspapers and magazines, while forgoing Facebook and Twitter.

He writes of the experience,

"It has been life changing. Turning off the buzzing breaking-news machine I carry in my pocket was like unshackling myself from a monster who had me on speed dial, always ready to break into my day with half-baked bulletins.

Now I am not just less anxious and less addicted to the news, I am more widely informed (though there are some blind spots). And I’m embarrassed about how much free time I have — in two months, I managed to read half a dozen books, took up pottery and (I think) became a more attentive husband and father."

Manjoo sums up his recommendations in three short instructions:

Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social.

In many ways, I’m with Manjoo.  I’m not on Facebook.  Twitter is a platform I use to share my blog posts, but only rarely do I spend time scanning tweets.  We subscribe to a daily local paper, the Valley News, which is delivered each morning to our driveway.  Each week I get a new print Economist, which I’ll read through weeks (or months) later.

And, like Manjoo, I read books.  Mostly nonfiction.  Mostly audiobooks.

Where I part ways with Manjoo’s recommendations are with his enthusiasm for print over digital news.  It seems to me that reading newspapers and daily news sites on screens is just fine.

Each day I read most news stories and opinion pieces on InsideHigherEd.com.  Usually, I read IHE on my iPhone.  Not through the app, but on the responsive website through the iPhone Safari browser. You?

The newspapers I read are the NYTimes and the Washington Post.  I subscribe to both of these newspapers digital editions.  The iOS app for the NYTimes is excellent.  Works beautifully offline, and is easy to navigate.  The Washington Post iOS app is also pretty good.

Effective news consumption does not need to be paper.  It is perfectly possible to get the advantages of a newspaper - including quality reporting and in-depth coverage - on a screen.

What about Twitter?

My sense is that Twitter, for many in our higher ed community, is a platform for connection.  Twitter is the way that many higher ed people build and nurture their professional communities.

For many in our community, going off Twitter would also mean losing a platform that has enabled many to amplify their voices.  Manjoo doesn’t need Twitter, as he has his NYTimes platform.

Recommendations to avoid social media ignore just how critical social media can be for people’s careers.  In a networked profession such as higher ed, one where one’s connections matter greatly in determining impact and effectiveness, social media becomes a professional tool.

We need to distinguish between unhealthy social media behavior, and the more sustaining and nourishing social media behaviors that build and maintain professional networks.

What does your information diet look like?


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