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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Newspapers? Why?

We had a discussion the other day about whether we should subscribe to the newspapers in our apartment.

His view was that it would be a good way to keep in touch with the news happenings and to keep on top of current affairs. This I do agree with, but I also felt that it was only on the weekends that either of us had the time and leisure to sit over a cup of coffee and read the papers. ( this is something I miss doing on Sunday mornings ) If that was the case, why pay a monthly subscription, only to end up with a pile of fire hazardous material that the karang guni man would only pay a pittance to clear!

While this may be seen as part of the bimbotic side of me, ( News? How serious! Pass me the Urban supplement please! ) I also feel, just how badly do we need the newspaper?

Yes, we need the newspaper to keep in touch with local happenings that affect us. These I have gotten from various sources around me. The HDB rulings I learnt from a friend working in property. The Budget news I got from the man. Any other weird local happenings, or 'human interest stories', I learnt from either Twitter or the friends around me.

This is advantageous of the social network. For one, my friends know my inability to understand anything presented to me in terrific detail and numbers. They know how to retell the information in a way that I get it better. Also, they know which news are more likely to affect my life ( HDB for example ) and they inform me when it arises.

As a result, I haven't lost too much track of anything that would affect me from the political circles.

Then you may argue: How about keeping abreast of world affairs? How about educating oneself on the world at large? I currently buy Time and Newsweek and various other magazines on a regular basis. I have Time on iPhone and Facebook and RSS. Reading through these are enough to let me know that Egypt is in riots and when Mubarak fell and which other countries are in protest. And you do really think that the comment and analysis section in our local papers can be consistently better than that in the foreign press?

The way I see it, the world of social and electronic communication is enough for any normal person in a normal walk of life to keep abreast of all the information that he could need in his daily life. If one is conscientious and interested enough to keep up with it, one could easily educate himself. If one didn't want to, well that person wouldn't be reading the newspapers anyway.

And I wonder whether this is going to be the face of news and information transfer in the future. Already newspapers are falling like flies in the US, where many smaller newspaper have had to quit publication because of increasing costs. Larger titles are not spared either, and have had to fire tons of reporters to reduce expenses. In the end such purges may one day lead to only a few major titles being sold in the US and the world, much like in Singapore.

People may still read, but they would increasingly turn to other channels for their reading material, like online channels. Witness the increasingly popularity of the iPad, and contrast that with the closing of Borders in Singapore ( RIP ) As part of the generation that grew up with the Net, I feel my reading patterns changing with the technology. I have a greater amount of reading material stored on my iPhone than in the little bookshelf in my apartment room.

I don't think we would ever grow out of the need for information. But certainly we will find new ways of doing so. The challenge for us would be to learn the ability to judge the sources of our information and learn which to accept and which to reject.

For the time being, though, maybe I'd just buy the Saturday and Sunday editions of the newspapers to satisfy the man. It would save us some amount in subscriptions at least.

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