Published On: Thu, Mar 8th, 2018

For two months, I got my news from the newspapers. Here’s what I learned.

I received the news of the shooting in Parkland, Florida for the first time, through a warning on my watch. Although months ago I had disabled the notifications, the biggest news still somehow finds the way to slip.

But for most of the next 24 hours after that alarm, I did not hear almost anything about the shoot.

There were many things I liked to miss. For example, I did not see the false statements – probably amplified by the propaganda bots – that the killer was a leftist, an anarchist, an ISIS member and maybe just one of the multiple shooters. I missed the Fox News report linking it to Syrian resistance groups even before its name was published. Also, I have not seen the statement by many press agencies (including the New York Times) and Senator Bernie Sanders and other liberals on Twitter that the massacre had been the 18th year of school shootings, which was not true.

Instead, the day after filming, a friendly person I’ve never met left three newspapers at my front door. That morning, I spent maybe 40 minutes scanning the horror of the shoot and a million other things the newspapers had to tell me.

Not only had I spent less time with the story than if I had followed it while online, I was also better informed. Since I had avoided the innocent errors – and the most mischievous indirect error – that had pervaded the first hours after filming, my first experience of the news was an accurate account of the actual events of the day.

This was my life for almost two months. In January, after the most recent last year, I decided to go back in time. I deactivated my digital news notifications, disconnected from Twitter and other social networks and I signed the home delivery of three printed newspapers: The Times, The Wall Street Journal and my local newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, plus a weekly , The Economist.

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I have spent almost every day since I received the news mainly from the press, although my self-imposed asceticism allowed podcasts, e-mail newsletters and long-term non-fiction (books and magazine articles). Basically, I was trying to slow down the news – I still wanted to be informed, but I was trying to format that depth and accuracy with respect to speed.

It is changing life. Turning off the buzzing machine for the news I carried in my pocket was like getting rid of a monster that had made me on a fast quadrant, always ready to break into my day with half-cooked newsletters.

Now I am not only less anxious and less dependent on the news, I am more informed (even if there are some blind spots). And I’m embarrassed about how much free time I have – in two months I’ve been able to read half a dozen books, I started working ceramics and (I think) I became a husband and a more attentive father.

Above all, I have fulfilled my personal role as a consumer of news in our broken digital news environment.

We have spent much of the last few years discovering that the digitalization of news is ruining the way information is processed collectively. Technology allows us to dig into echo chambers, exacerbating misinformation and polarization and softening society for propaganda. With artificial intelligence that makes audio and video easy to falsify as text, we are entering a dystopia of rear-view mirrors, which some call “an information apocalypse”. And we’re all looking for the government and Facebook for a solution.

But you and I do not even have a part to play? Getting news only from newspapers can be extreme and probably not for everyone. But the experiment taught me several lessons about the pitfalls of digital news and how to avoid them.

I distilled those lessons into three brief instructions, the way the writer Michael Pollan summed up nutritional advice once: Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid the social.

Receive news.
I know what you’re thinking: listening to a writer of the Times extolling the virtues of printing is like making suggestions for breakfast by Count Chocula. You could also ask me if I’m preaching to the choir; not all those who read this story already appreciate the press?

Probably not. The Times has about 3.6 million paying subscribers, but about three quarters of them pay only for the digital version. During the 2016 elections, less than 3% of Americans cited the press as the most important source of campaign news; for people under 30, printing was their least important source.

I’m almost 40, but I’m not different. Although I have been following the news since I was a child, I have always liked my news on a screen, available at the touch of a button. Even with this experiment, I found a lot to hate in the press. The pages are too big, the type too small, the ink too confusing and, compared to a smartphone, a newspaper is more a hassle to consult while traveling.

Even the press presents a more limited mix of ideas than what you find online. BuzzFeed or Complex or Slate can not be printed. In California, you can not even print the Washington Post. And the press is expensive. Outside of New York, after the introductory discounts, The Times’ seven-day home delivery will cost you $ 81 a month. In a year, this is the price of the best Apple iPhone.


What do you get for all that dough? News. It seems obvious until you try it, and you realize how much of what you get online is not new, and more like an endless stream of comments, one that does more to distort your understanding of the world than to enlighten it.


I have noticed this before with the agreement that the Democrats have done to end the extinction of the government in late January. In the opening pages of January 23, the agreement was presented directly: “Shutdown Ends,” published the Times’ title on the newsletter, which appeared next to a piece of analysis that presented the calculations politicians surrounding the agreement.

Many of the opinions in this analysis could be found on Twitter and Facebook. What was different was the emphasis. Online, the comment preceded the facts. If you were following the arrest on social networks, you would most likely have seen many politicians and experts take stock of the deal before seeing the details of current news.

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