Editorial: smart people read newspapers

Peter Gillette

The Lawrentian awarded $20 apiece to seven deserving winners as part of last month’s crossword puzzle contest, the centerpiece of what we like to call “Newspaper Readership Month.”
We chose October for a reason-Election Day. As big news events draw near and our lives get busier, college students have a tendency to type in “cnn.com,” read the leading headline and the abstract, and consider ourselves informed. This, accompanied by a blog-style site featuring the shrill polemics of our chosen partisan prophets, too often passes for a steady diet of “news.”
There is a definite downside to the hyperlink. For our ADD generation, Generation Y Bother, a quick check of internet news is a surefire way to end or begin your day feeling superior and informed. I’ll confess that, ever since one awful day a few weeks before freshman year started, I have had a compulsive desire to type “msnbc.com” and track the latest countdown to Armageddon.
I cannot recall the lead cnn.com headline the morning of Nov. 1, because its absolute inanity demanded its erasure from my memory. It was something to the effect of “Bush, Kerry continue campaigning.”
Thanks, CNN. With all the dying soldiers, hungry babies, and quiet heroes roaming our nation, that was the most groundbreaking event of the day. Newspapers, despite the faults they share with New Media, are better poised to flesh out a story and get at the proverbial “issues.”
Too often, we Lawrentians are squandering this wonderful opportunity: we have two of the nation’s best papers and USA Today delivered to our dorms each day. These are not free. You have paid for these, through LUCC. (The same goes for the newspaper you are reading now-did you know that?) We ought to read them, in Downer, on the toilet, while walking to class, while ignoring a professor’s lecture … there are many great places a newspaper can go that the internet can’t.
Since you are -even if tacitly-buying these newspapers, getting in the habit of reading at least two stories a day, from beginning to end, seems very reasonable. One story ought to be something that interests you completely, and the other ought to be something totally foreign to you.
When reading in such a way, a wonderful thing starts to happen: in time, less and less belongs in that second category. You will be accruing general knowledge.
General knowledge is a wonderful thing. It can win you free drinks from the Wooden Nickel (bring four of your stupidest friends and rack up the freebies), a coveted prize from the Great Midwest Trivia Contest, or even-if you’re a **Lawrentian** reader who’s already cultivated your general knowledge skills -$20.
So, congratulations again to William Bollow, Tariq Engineer, Elissa Harbert, Ann Miller, Eric Armour, Tim Ruberton, and Matthew Straughn-Morse. If you’ll excuse me, I have some bookmarks to remove from my browser.