A Case for Home Newspaper Delivery
I know... I know... making a case for home newspaper delivery in 2020 sounds as anachronistic and out of touch as saying that we should bring back the fax machine, or worse, some hipster plea to return ironically to beepers and manhole cover-sized Discmen, but I promise you, there are some good reasons to support your local paperboy.
Over the years, I've subscribed to several newspapers: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement (UK), and Barron's. Recently, it seems that the home delivery option is often buried on the sign up page, beneath a scad of digital bundles, like some Luddite afterthought akin to Netflix's DVD service. I would argue that home delivery is more relevant now, during a global pandemic and prolonged period of national unrest, than it has been in my lifetime. Here's why:
Reason #1: Create boundaries around how and when you engage with the news
Checking my news apps used to feel like a fun diversion, now it's painful. Many of my colleagues, all of whom are deeply intelligent people, have decided to take a break from the news, and keep themselves purposefully disconnected, to mitigate this stress. While I understand the impulse, I respectfully disagree with their approach. Ignorance of the situation may be a temporary salve, but it doesn't address the core issue. We need to engage with the world and seek to understand the perspectives of others. The problem, as I see it, is not exposure to the news, it's overexposure... the kind of saturation that's facilitated by news app push notifications.
Reading a physical newspaper is an effective way to time block the way you interact with the news. The news becomes a physical thing that you can engage with, and with ruthless efficiency, walk away from. The act of turning the page is endlessly more satisfying than swiping away on your phone and tablet.
One of the pressures I felt when I started home delivery was that papers would pile up, or that I wouldn't read a significant enough portion of the paper to justify it's existence. I had to shift my mindset to accept that the goal of receiving the paper was not to complete reading it, but to interact with the news in a way that felt good for me. To that end, I never save papers beyond the day I receive them, and I don't pressure myself to read beyond my interests. The only obligation I set is that I open every page, and I evaluate every article's title. Some days I spend a couple of hours with the paper (looking at you, Sunday Times) and others, just 15 minutes.
Getting the paper delivered allows you to do one of the most satisfying activities in modern life: turn off push notifications on your news apps.
Reason #2: Add structure and routine to your mornings
I love routines and rituals. It's a big part of the reason I co-founded Grüner Wellness... to help others to build self-care habits and carve out time for reflection. When COVID-19 hit, we moved from a condo in Seattle, to a cottage in the woods of Port Townsend, a coastal town on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.
Every morning, I jump out of bed, don a red waffle-knit robe, and walk out to my mailbox to collect the day's paper. I will be the first to admit that it's a contrived aesthetic... a pastiche to some vision of suburban/pastoral life, but it suits me. On the way back to my cottage, I sort the paper into its sections. I switch from my outdoor Birkenstocks to my Ugg house shoes, place the paper on the kitchen island, and proceed to make myself a Latte Machiato with oat milk and date syrup. I read the paper while sipping my latte in silence. This is my morning routine and I love it. It's a far cry from where I was in Seattle, rolling directly from bed to a Zoom call. It adds a bit of structure that's been missing since the pandemic started, and it's a routine that I will certainly keep when this dark period inevitably passes.
Reason #3: Support a good cause
I won't belabor or politicize this point. Regardless of how you feel about the mainstream media, you can likely agree that the world needs more high quality, objective journalism. The movement toward clickbait tactics and unethical reporting are driven by a broken incentivisation model that favors eyeballs, viral shares, and outrage to pay the bills.
By subscribing to a reputable newspaper, you are supporting journalists who do important work to shine light on important issues and speak truth to power.
Now is probably a good time to address the elephant in the room: Isn't it more green and sustainable to read news on your phone instead of wasting paper? Short answer: yes, reading a physical newspaper does create waste. While there's no getting around this fact, the silver lining is that about 73% of newspapers are recycled, and generally speaking, paper is easily and efficiently reused. Part of my morning routine is to take the previous days paper to the recycling bin.
Reason #4: Challenge yourself with contrarian ideas and viewpoints
Another undesired side effect of online news aggregators is that they make it easier for people to seek out and surround themselves with viewpoints and opinions that they already agree with, a phenomenon commonly known as confirmation bias.
Unless you're reading the AP or Reuters, any news source you pick will have a political leaning or ideological bias. This is impossible to avoid, but high quality news sources will routinely publish Op Eds that seek to challenge the their own biases and preconceived opinions. The long-story-short here is: If you agree with everything you're reading, you're not seeing the full picture.
My current newspaper is The New York Times, and I would be lying if I didn't say that some article manages to make me angry every single day. But that's the point. I don't read the paper to confirm my own beliefs, but to challenge them, so that I can grow.
Which newspaper should you subscribe to?
In the US, you have the several options for nationwide daily delivery:
The New York Times - Winner of 130 Pulitzer Prizes. Coverage leans left, but is generally considered the gold standard for broad new coverage in the US.
Wall Street Journal - America's premier source for business and financial news. Opinion articles lean heavily right, but news coverage is generally unbiased.
USA Today - Broad coverage. Tends to have less political bias overall. (Note: I've never read USA Today personally. My uneducated, but maybe slightly elitist opinion is that it's more akin to a morning news show, than hard hitting journalism. Don't @ me.)
Don't count out your local paper!! Opting for a local option is good for a number of reasons: it reduces the scope of your news into something more manageable, it informs you about your community, the money goes to an institution that probably needs it more than those above, and the reporting is often quite good! It's easy to think that the NYT and WSJ are the only papers that break big stories, but that simply isn't true.
Personally, I alternate my subscriptions between the NYT and WSJ, every 6 months or so. Also, if you're interested in the stock market, I'm a huge fan of Barron's, which comes out weekly.
No matter which paper you choose, the ritual of reading a physical paper might be just what you need to restore sanity in these manic times.
If you're looking for other ways to spruce up your routine, check out Grüner's new Evening Ritual Oil.