Thursday, 4 June 2015

Do you still read the newspaper?

During my 45-minute one-way train journey to work, I still see a few commuters reading newspapers or solving Sudoku (crosswords are out). It is a reassuring sight for until a little over a decade ago, it was the only thing we did. Most others are either dozing off or thumbing away on their smartphones or listening to music on their iPods. I seldom find anyone reading books these days. This morning, as the mastheads of familiar newspapers caught my eye and touched a sentimental chord, I recalled my own association with the once ubiquitous newspaper long before I entered journalism and ruined my career. 

Gripping
I grew up with newspapers, thanks to my father and his elder brother who were seasoned journalists in their time. We used to get four papers delivered at home on weekdays and a few more on Sundays, not counting tabloid-size eveningers. I was keen on current affairs, particularly the Cold War standoffs, and there was a time when I knew the names of heads of countries and their foreign ministers by heart. I was also familiar with intelligence agencies and took pride in memorising, and occasionally showing off, the full form of KGB—Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti—or State Security for the Supreme Soviet Society. I can rattle it off even now in the dead of night. Clearly, back then I was idling.

It is possible that reading about KGB and CIA and Mossad and Stasi in the newspapers triggered my interest in spy fiction and one of the first espionage novels I read was The Red Gods (1981) by Donald Lindquist. It was about a Soviet conspiracy to nuke America. I remember the novel as being gripping and well-written. I think I have recommended it to my (blog) friends.

Fascinating
In 1986, I got my first newspaper job and there was no turning back, though how I wish I’d right away. In those days I read an awful lot of newspapers and magazines including foreign periodicals. The Economist, The Times, London, and its literary supplement, The Guardian, Time and Newsweek, and International Herald Tribune were a favourite. I’d enthusiastically stack a variety of Sunday newspapers at home, date wise, so I could read them during the week. That never happened. The newspapers gathered dust. After a while I outgrew the habit and made better use of the trunk space. I got rid of the trunk.

At the time I read all kinds of novels, as I do now. I was particularly fond of Tom Shapre (whose books I’m collecting again), Frank G. Slaughter, Nevil Shute, A.J. Cronin, Lloyd C. Douglas, Charles Dickens, and Malcolm Bradbury. I also read a lot of popular bestselling authors from Harold Robbins to Alistair MacLean and Robert Ludlum to Frederick Forsyth. Cult writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, and Ray Bradbury came later. And then I took to blogging which changed my reading completely, and for the better. For this I have all of you to thank.

Favourite Cronin
Today, I glance at the headlines on the only morning newspaper I get at home, The Times of India, and barely go through the dozen papers I get in office. Instead, I follow news online a couple of times a day and read analysis and essays on credible political and history websites. I stopped watching television news, because it's all about anchoring and loudmouths and ratings and little else. While I regret getting into journalism at nineteen, as I did, I admit it had a formative influence on my reading, whether it was newspapers and magazines or books and comic books.

28 comments:

  1. I only buy one newspaper a week now on a Saturday, though I do browse a few newspaper websites during the week. I doubt any of my children have ever considered buying a newspaper in their lives, yet I would have frequently when I was their age.

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    1. Same here, Col, but my kids read news online because they often tell me or ask me about events in India and across the world.

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  2. I read the NYT every day. The local paper not so much.

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    1. Patti, I read NYT and Washington Post online as well as a few other websites like Salon and CSM.

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  3. I do read more news online than I do on paper during the week but I always get the Saturday (The Guardian) and Sunday (The Observer) papers, without fail. It has certanly changed a lot in the last few years,

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    1. Sergio, I was fond of reading British periodicals including the ones you mentioned as well as The Spectator, The Independent, The Telegraph, and The Times, and such worthies like Private Eye, Punch, News of the World and Sun. Now I read them online, occasionally.

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  4. Growing up where I did, we only had a local weekly paper. We used to read that. I got the paper for years after I moved to the New Orleans area but gave it up maybe 10 years ago now.

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    1. Charles, I forgot to mention a couple of local papers I read in my teens. They had a rich local flavour and it seemed as if the news happened in your backyard.

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  5. I'm addicted to the Wall Street Journal. I have to read it every day and especially the book reviews and editorials. I like to hear what people think about current events rather than only reading about those events.
    As far as spy novels go, I'm currently reading "The Zimmerman Telegraph" and the "Zhivago Affair". Neither are fiction but they read like action thrillers. I like them better for knowing they actually happened. Have a great day. Glad to have found your blog.

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    1. Sharon, thank you for visiting and commenting. I have not read WSJ in a long time and I must remember to browse through the paper online. Apart from THE ECONOMIST the magazine I was addicted to was FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW which was shut down in 2009. I have not read the two nonfiction books you mentioned but then my reading in the genre, fiction or otherwise, has been poor in recent years. I hope you have a great day too, Sharon.

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  6. The name of Frank G. Slaughter rings a bell, Prashant. Perhaps I read his work once upon a time? It's possible. I also kind of remember Lloyd C. Douglas - THE ROBE. I went through a phase of reading 'religous history' fiction back then. And I think I read MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION too. Ah, Prashant, your post brings back my own reading memories. Sort of. :)

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    1. Yvette, I remember being mesmerised by the prose of Frank G. Slaughter and Lloyd C. Douglas and here I'm particularly referring to their biblical histories. I'm past that phase though I wouldn't mind reading their novels once in a while.

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  7. We still take the local paper, The Oregonian, which is online every day but delivered in hard copy Friday - Sunday. I read the Washington Post online as well as the BBC news site.

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    1. Richard, I read THE WASHINGTON POST, THE NEW YORK TIMES, and BBC NEWS online mainly for political commentary. Sometimes I also read online versions of local papers in the US but there are far too many of them.

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  8. Prashant: I get the daily from Saskatoon delivered. In the mail we get the Melfort weekly paper, for which I still write some sports columns, and a weekly Catholic paper published by the Benedictines where I went to high school.

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    1. Bill, as I mentioned to Richard above, I'm curious to read local papers and look at the kind of news and features they cover. Human interest stories are of interest to me, as are places and culture. I'll browse through the Melfort weekly paper.

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  9. Like you, for me newspaper were part of life and work. Now I don't need to read them for work so much, but still get one delivered every day, and two on Sundays, plus read various periodicals. We often have young people to stay in the house, and I will say 'the paper is here, would you like to look?' over, say, Sunday breakfast, and they will always say 'oh I already read it in bed on my phone.' Different days...

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    1. Moira, I used to enjoy solving crosswords in the Sunday papers, a habit I outgrew a few years ago. My father and me were hooked to the syndicated daily "Times" cryptic crossword that was very popular in India in the seventies and eighties.

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  10. We get the LA Times, stopped taking the local paper years ago when they shafted some of the staff. It is very expensive though and we have considered canceling it. My husband and son both read more of it than I do. They will read some of the opinion pieces but I like it for the Calendar (Entertainment) section and just to get an overview of national and state news. I get it online too and sometimes go through it that way, but not often. Don't watch the news on TV at all for the same reasons you noted.

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    1. Tracy, these days I read papers, both physical and online, only for opinions and analysis of current and political events. I don't recall reading "LA Times" but definitely remember going through "USA Today" that one of my earliest employers used to subscribe to. IHT was another favourite newspaper of mine.

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  11. Unfortunately, I've quit reading the newspaper. I used to read the paper a lot in my high school and college days. My favorite would be the book review section and the celebrity interviews along with the local news in the Sunday paper.

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    1. Keishon, the one section I never, and still don't, read in the papers is sports, unless it is about chess. I continue to follow the game and the various tournaments held through the year. Comic Strips is another favoured section though the strips are shrinking every year. And besides I don't like the modern-day cartoon strips.

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  12. I didn't know you'd been in journalism, Prashant! That's really interesting! I think that field has changed so much because of the Internet. In some ways it's good in the sense that it's a new way to reach readers. Still, there is something about the feel of a real newspaper. I enjoy that very much, especially when I travel.

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    1. Margot, it's thirty years since I have been in journalism, foolishly following in the footsteps of my father and his elder brother. Over the years I have worked in newspapers and magazines in both mainstream and niche areas. The initial decade was full of excitement as I strived to meet deadline and file all kinds of stories and see my byline in next day's paper. The internet has made news reporting far easier, in the sense we now have more armchair than on-field reporting, which is both good and bad.

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  13. I tend not to read newspapers unless I find one on the few occasions I use a train & either forgotten Or finished my book. I get my news first thing in the morning via the BBC news or online.

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    1. Parrish Lantern, I watch BBC News and CNN on television for world news and follow both domestic and international news on the internet. Indian television news channels suck.

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  14. I've always had an interest in newspapers since taking a class in journalism where we put out the high school paper. Up until the last few years that is. Now I get one hard copy paper a day (except Sun and Monday), the Sun City Daily News, and I find it almost too much what with the online and TV news.

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    1. Oscar, my class in journalism in the mid-eighties didn't help me as much as my first job as a cub reporter but it did teach me the importance of reading newspapers and making notes on the go. I glance at the headline on my morning paper and depend on the internet for news rest of the day. I like reading political commentaries and opinions from across the world.

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