I have a confession to make.
I’ve never read the New York Times cover to cover. Shit, I have never even strongly considered it.
Embarking on a beginning to end trip through “all the news that’s fit to print” requires a couple things that I either don’t have, or don’t like to use.
The first of which is attention span. While writing this I have watched parts of Conan, an episode of Seinfeld, checked ESPN.com and my email four times each, made three trips to the kitchen and gone to the bathroom twelve times. Asking me to sit still and read The New York Times would be like hiring Lawrence Taylor as a bouncer. I would do a good job at first, but eventually I am going to get careless and miss something really important.
If you have the required attention span embedded in your DNA, the next thing someone would need in order to conquer the Grey Lady is a serious interest in current affairs. These affairs include, but are not limited to politics, religion, economy, sports, art, food and culture. Like you, I have an interest in a few of these things. However, I lack a serious jones to hear in depth, intellectual coverage on all of them, all at once. That’s not to say that I don’t care, or am in some way unsympathetic to the plight of the world. I am just not hotwired in a way that allows me to care long enough, or care hard enough, because it is an intellectually taxing quest, to finish the paper from beginning to end.
There are probably a handful of you out there shaking your head at the last sentence. The old schoolers. who feel that nothing creative made it out of the 70’s alive, and that our generation lacks the capacity to appreciate such ideas because of things like Twitter and Facebook, are probably wagging their fingers right now at my lack of substance.
For the record, I read all the time. But I would be judged in your eyes for what I don’t read. Which brings me to the third thing needed to navigate the “newspaper of record”. You need to drink the kool-aid. This band of finger waggers, of which I am sure some of my generation sings back up for, feel a sense of superiority because they read The Times. Carrying The Times, which is no less elitist than saying The U, or THE Ohio State University, makes some people feel like The Reader.
We have all been in conversations with these people. People who know more than you do, and on the rare occasion that they don’t because you read the same article they did, they move on to another subject. This continues until they settle upon something you can’t match wits on, leaving them free to offer their so called ‘opinions’ uninterrupted. The next time you are going to see one of The Readers, spend the few days prior studying The Times. When you see them gearing up to impress the crowd, steal their thunder. Keep it up until they run out of headlines to talk about and then, watch them flounder and gasp for air. It can be like you’re very own Good Will Hunting moment.
I have prejudiced feelings towards reading The Times because of these people. It has nothing to do with the paper itself. On the rare occasions where I have picked it up, I have found the writing to be nothing less than stellar, edifying, and capable of walking a fine line between cerebral and entertaining. As it has for 160 years, The Paper commands respect silently, by letting its content do the talking. But even if I possessed the necessary attention span and political spirit, that prejudice won’t let me finish the whole offering, perhaps because I fear turning into one of them myself.
With technology allowing us to read almost anything on the internet, people like me had the opportunity to read The Times’ content without carrying around a bulky status symbol that is bad for the environment. We could pick and choose what we wanted to read free from the guilt that comes with throwing away a whole bunch of paper after only reading one of its pages. It should be noted here that this guilt does not kick in with The Post or The Daily News, who seem woefully out of place anywhere but a trash can.
It seemed a perfect mix to offer my generation. A generation that is searching for its place in the cultural, educated pantheon of adults, but having a hard time focusing because of the degenerative attention span condition that seems to be universally hereditary. Giving us the ability to read what we want, on our terms was a win-win. You need us to patronize your newspaper in order to attract more advertising, and we need you to care about us in order to justify our place at the table.
Think about how much time the average 20-35 year old spends online on a daily basis. If The Times managed to attract some of that segment by offering their content in the medium that we frequent most, it would be an investment in their future. It is like the tobacco companies marketing to kids with the Joe Camel and Marlboro Man ads. Get a customer hooked while they are young, and they will be loyal for life.
Instead, The Times seems to be echoing Grouch Marx’s famous line:
“I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
The younger generation is the club now, and by providing its product in a variety of ways, such as iPhone apps, and by making it free for all of us to see on the internet, The Times was indicating a desire to be a member.
It was as if you stopped wagging your fingers long enough to tweet us an olive branch.
We would have gladly accepted, and embraced The Times as a voice for the people had they not announced that they now plan to charge people who want to read their content online.
Say what you want about our generation, but there is no better way to alienate young people than to try and get them to pay for something, when they can get a similar something for free with minimal effort. But I guess that’s the point isn’t it.
The reason I have never read The New York Times cover to cover is because that is the way The Times wants it.
For some reason The Times has chosen now, a time where print newspapers are on their death beds, to stick it’s head in the sand. No one under the age of 35 is going to pay to read The New York Times online, and their insistence that we do, seems to be alienating just for the sake of alienating.
The Grey Lady is getting old, and she appears to be satisfied to spend the rest of her days withering away in the dark, asking old friends for money to hear her stories.
—-Corey Maloney firstname.lastname@example.org