News Junkie Smackdown

These Rules Are Like the Web: Confusing and Contradictory
Policy made plain.
July 22 2009 4:37 PM

News Junkie Smackdown

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Emily Yoffe: Not that any of us actually is completely clear on the rules of this smackdown, but I think we're not allowed to continue to surf the Web after our morning hour of reading is up! [That's correct!—Michael N.] This rule—to make the experience of us Webbies as static as that of the newspaper guys—points to a flaw in this experiment. I, at least, don't consume Web news the way I do the newspaper—which I read basically at one sitting over breakfast, maybe putting aside some stories to read at the end of the day. I get online and do some surfing at the beginning of the day, then constantly update. So reading the Web as if it's a newspaper—it arrives at the beginning of the day and doesn't change—is the most unfair part of this comparison.

One problem with being a Web-only reader is the lack of structure. In my usual routine, where I start the day with the papers, I look at the front page, the editorial page, and some arts or other feature—then I feel I'm at least glancingly aware of what's new. But reading only the Web—and not looking at aggregators—makes the news seem so formless.
Also, capping our reading at one hour a day is just not how we consume news anymore.

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Seth Stevenson: My designated hour for reading was noon to 1 p.m. EDT (had a morning tennis game). Added benefit: Unlike the morning paper, Web sites were not already beginning to yellow with age.

Sam Howe Verhovek: Hey, we're in the sixth inning of a baseball game here, and you're complaining to the umpires all of a sudden that you don't like the rules? Let's give the fans their money's worth and take it up with Bud Selig later. By the way, we are now officially playing this contest under protest. If we win, we win; if we lose, we contest. Ain't that America?

Yoffe: Surfing all day usually means seeing how the WP and NYT have updated their sites. Not having access to these anchors does severely diminish my surfing pleasure. As others have mentioned, you feel there's a conversation going on that you can't participate in.

Verhovek: Isn't there a country music song that goes something like: "If the phone doesn't ring, I'll know it's you, not calling me?" Something like that. Whatever. Anyway, that's the way life would be without newspapers. You'd sure miss 'em if they were gone.

Michael Kinsley: Emily, as long as you say what you are doing (e.g., Seth deciding that a few sets of tennis are more important than the future of newspapers, the future of the Web, the future of Seattle, and the future of the Cambridge Police Department), within reason, it's OK. I think your point about how reading the newspaper tends to be a once-a-day experience whereas surfing the Web is a throughout-the-day one is interesting and valid. But do you need to prime the pump with a newspaper every morning in order to surf with pleasure the rest of the day?

And Seth, I give you dispensation to read that David Brooks column from yesterday. It really is one of his best.

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