Monday, December 15, 2008

NPR - Reading the News

I've written that I read 3-5 newspapers 4-5 days a week, and look at on-line newspapers almost every day, from local to international papers. But as I learn to read on-line newspapers I still like the plain paper ones, and am disheartened the daily Washington Post isn't available here with the other major newspapers (NY Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.). The Christian Science Monitor would also be nice but it's dropping print editions in the spring of 2009.

What I've found is the obvious, I read the paper and on-line ones differently, vastly differently, and why I like the paper ones. I'm one of those folks who loves getting it, sorting the section in the order I read, and then spread each section out on the table one at a time and scan each page thoroughly, even the ads. I usually spend 30-60 minutes with each paper depending on the paper. Our local ones aren't all the thick with news, and even then usually articles from national news sources.

This takes time. I usually read while eating breakfast or a snack, with coffee. It's the old-fashioned joy of the world in front of you, there to choose to read or not. It's doesn't hide in a link or in sub pages on a Website, it's all there, front and present in your view and available for your consciousness. All you have to do is read.

Internet newspaper Websites require a totally different sense. Instead of seeing the headline and the text, where you can read into the article to see if it's interesting. Instead of knowing newspapers tend to follow a general pattern in the organization of the paper by and through each section, each of the Web news sites organizes and structures their pages differently, and while similar to print news, not the same.

Most of the Web news sites tend to layer the news, from the front page through the sections on the navigation bar. And if all you want is today's news, you have to navigate to that Web page or set of Web pages, and read the headlines and links to the stories. In short, instead of having quick access to the content, you have to click through Web pages, just to read the introduction for the idea of the article.

In a way it's the difference between sequential and parallel thinking. The print paper is sequential. You have to turn and read each page. You simply can't read more than the page(s) in front of you. The Internet paper is parallel. All the choices for sections and articles are there on the home page. First you have to discern the structure and organization of the on-line paper, and then decide which articles to read or subpages to follow.

And the Internet ones don't put the current paper up front, but they give you a series of days of news. If all you want is today's paper, you have to find the link "Today's Paper" and go there, and start the visual and mental process (above) again. I don't find this frustrating or troublesome, just different, something to adapt and adjust my senses and thinking.

But what I find is that I get through the Internet ones quicker and faster, and spend less time reading pieces of articles than just selecting whole articles. And often, I just hit the print version to print and read than read the on-line version. This is because I don't pay attention to the ads and find them distracting, which is the opposite in the actual print version. I like reading the ads.

I realize this is the obvious. I learned Web design from a former journalist, and I design my Website more in the mode of the news style than a Web style, something I'm revisiting with WSR version 3.0, but that's in the future. For now I read both types of newspapers, but I still like the real print ones.

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