News Junkie Smackdown
Emily, I actually have no problem simultaneously managing a laptop and a bowl of cereal. Maybe it just takes some practice? Or you could try a bigger kitchen table? Or switch to yogurt?
I do agree that there's real value in the societal expectation that we'll all have read the same morning newspaper. It sure makes for an easier starting point in conversations. ("Did you read obscure blog X?" "No, but did you read even more obscure blogs Y and Z?" is a little more disjointed than "Did you see the front page of this morning's Times?")
Blacking out the newspapers this week did make me realize how much I'd miss some of the superb individual voices they publish. In general, you can be assured of a quality product when you pick up the Times, the Post, and the Journal. Bouncing around the Web, you'll encounter a wildly uneven caliber of writing, reporting, and analysis—some terrific, some dreadful. There's a lot to be said for reliability and authoritativeness.
But did I feel like an uninformed citizen these last few days? Absolutely not. If I wanted international coverage, I could click over to BBCNews.com, CNN International, or any number of other sites. If I wanted local coverage, I could read a bevy of blogs about city development plans, neighborhood news, and so forth. Of course, we needn't even mention things like weather, sports, the markets. ...
Today, in particular, feels like a news day made for the Web. The big story—Obama's press conference—required no special access granted only to big-time, mainstream journalists. It aired on TV for all to see. What I wanted to read today was not a neutral recap of Obama's performance, but the opinionated reaction from all corners. The Web delivered and then some on that score.
Don't get me wrong. I would hate to lose the newspapers. But I'm pretty sure I could live a full and happy life without them.
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.