TimTibbitts | Sharing a News Story–The Old-Fashioned Way
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Sharing a News Story–The Old-Fashioned Way

03 Nov 2014, Posted by Tim Tibbitts in The Reading Life

I’ve started a new habit:  Once a week, sometime between Sunday evening and Tuesday, I walk my dog the half-mile to a friend’s house and drop at his side door the “Book Review” and “Week in Review” sections of the Sunday New York Times.  This routine started as an altruistic impulse, a lifeline thrown to hold a friend back from the cultural abyss (his otherwise perfectly lovely spouse having recently decided to switch the family from the Times to the Wall Street Journal).

Lurking in the shadows of this ostensible altruism was a secret desire to assuage the guilt that accumulates each week in direct proportion to my recycling pile.  I know that ample coal is burned to fuel all the lap tops, but there’s no way I can justify having a daily newspaper delivered to my house when “all the news that’s fit to print” is now available online.  (There’s just something so very satisfying about the physicality of the newspaper at the breakfast table.  And then, of course, there is the crossword and the ken-ken!)  If I can make sure at least one other person enjoys some of that paper before it’s recycled, well that’s a small thing, isn’t it?

An unexpected pleasure that has begun to attach itself to my new weekly ritual is related to this old-school pleasure of reading the news on paper.  There’s something really lovely about sharing a bit of the newspaper in small-scale, personal way.  Facebook and Twitter have proven conclusively that Americans love to pass stories and photos along to their friends.  Hands down, we’re collectively “sharing” more content with more people more often than ever before imaginable in history.  And I’m into it.  I enjoy seeing what people post, and I surely benefit from the crowdsourcing of content I wouldn’t have otherwise seen were it not for my Facebook filter bubble.  And I pass along my share of “content.”  But it’s not the same.

Just a few years ago, I was still in the habit of clipping the occasional article and photocopying it for a handful of friends or professional colleagues who might be interested.  It was laborious.  It cost money.  But it was personal.  When a friend received a #10 envelope with two stamps on the front and a ten-page article bursting the seams, she knew that I had sent it because I thought she would find it interesting, not because I thought everyone would find it interesting.

I know, I sound like a dinosaur.  And while the jury’s still out, I imagine eventually it’ll be clear that the benefits of this new mass connectedness outweigh the opportunity costs.  But for the time being, at least once a week, I have the pleasure of walking a handful of newsprint around the corner and sharing a little bit of old-fashioned treasure with a friend.

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