A few months after a friend retired, she told me she had stopped reading the newspapers. All her news came from online sources and the BBC World Service. That was several years ago.
In the past two years, the way I get the news has changed too. Yes, stepping off the corporate threadmill has that effect. All my news now comes from online sources – not just because I’ve turned to e-papers to avoid getting ink-stained fingers.
Whatsapp chat group link to story and photos on the solar eclipse? Let’s check it out. Click.
Facebook friend shares a news story about 1MDB? The saga continues. Click.
Friend of friend shared a post – “Marine Parade Town Council puts up posters to ban playing of chess in common areas”? No kidding. Click.
Posts on the new superfood chia seeds and when best to eat a banana? News to me too. Click.
I click on these way too often for my own good. I should say ‘tap’ not ‘click’ – the mouse is a forlorn creature these days. Sometimes my finger hovers undecidedly over the link, and the page opens up. My phone touch screen is too sensitive.
Conversely, the news alerts pushed to me - too often as well - by my mobile news app are mostly ignored. I have no urge to find out right away just how hot NEA says it will get this month, or how the judge decided in a particular court case.
Of course, not all news spread via social media is reliable. Often enough though, some diligent fact-checker among my friends would challenge the bogus story. Just today a supposed exposé on a (non-existent) ‘satanic’ movie was countered with a link to www.hoax-slayer.com.
At times, the social media post says more than the authoritative news story. That Facebook post on the town council chess ban showed a snapshot of that newsworthy poster. “No playing of chess at common areas,” it announced unabashedly. The news story it linked to displayed only the revised poster. “Please be considerate; please do not obstruct the walkway,” it chided gently. The town council changed its stance, and the poster, likely after the online brouhaha. Perhaps it didn’t offer a copy of the old poster to the news reporter.
Lately I’ve been keeping up with news about the US presidential primaries online too. Step aside CNN and New York Times. It’s far more diverting to watch John Oliver on Last Week Tonight and Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. We miss you, Jon Stewart.
The venerable BBC World Service is still listenable despite the effects of cost-cuts. It has a great app for listening online while checking other websites. I can plop my tablet on the kitchen counter to catch up on world news, while keeping an eye on the roast chicken recipe on foodnetwork.com.
Old habits die hard, though. I am a relic who still reads the print edition of the daily local paper. I know it is in fact yesterday’s news, which I’m reading via a frustratingly laggy mobile app. It’s usually not news I need to use or know. I should spend time on a book instead.
I’m not alone. I know retirees who pore over the papers daily - one guy tells me he spends half his day doing that. Another writes enthusiastically to newspaper forum pages. (Does anyone still read these when comments are posted by the truckload online?) I guess it’s one of their daily pleasures.
As for me, I hope to kick that habit soon and discover the earth still moves round the sun.