Lately I have been bombarded from several different angles regarding the wisdom of reading newspapers. I’ve read three books that all downplay the necessity of newspapers.
In The Four Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss suggests that newspapers take too much time. His book advocates doing only what needs to be done, and deliberately not doing things that don’t need to be done. He finds that newspapers pull his mind in directions that have nothing to do with his business, and cause him to remain unfocused for a much longer period of time than it took to read the paper.
In America’s Cheapest Family, the Economides suggest that newspapers take too much money. Their book is all about getting your personal and household finances in order, and newspapers are one of several items they identify that offer nothing to the reader, but in the long run will detract from his financial position.
In The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Steven Sample suggests that newspapers negatively affect a leader’s ability to make correct decisions. He once conducted an experiment where he deliberately avoided newspapers (and news from any media outlet) for a period of six months. Because he got his news directly from his trusted advisers (who assimilated news from a variety of sources, and whose biases he well understood) he was generally more in-the-know than those who read the papers. He now reads newspapers only for entertainment.
All of this really hacks me off.
I love reading the papers – as many as I can get my hands on. My ideal morning starts with an hour of coffee and the Wall Street Journal (and maybe a bagel). I subscribe to the Pueblo Chieftain and the Greenhorn Valley View. I write a weekly column for the Greenhorn Valley View! I spend liberally on newspapers and would spend even more if I could. I purchased subscriptions for my parents and my parents-in-law.
And yet, I can count on no hands the amount of useful information I’ve received from newspapers over the last several years. I find myself fairly well informed on matters that don’t matter. The hour I spend reading the paper costs me two hours of productivity. The money spent could be better used for other things. And if I want to lead, I don’t need to let editors and reports tell me what to think.
I’m not crawling into my hermit hole just yet, but I think I’m finding myself in the uncomfortable position of having to analyze and prune a favorite habit in my life. I feel like a wino who has just realized he has a problem with alcohol. I still want to enjoy my habit, but I don’t want it to control me.
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