The paper arrived for the first time at our place here in Silverlake today. Something about getting your local rag really makes you feel like you’re rooted in a new location.
But though that observation might sound uplifting–and hey, this piece in the Times today was particularly great–it also inspires me to reflect critically upon my media consumption habits over the past several years.
I’m not of my parents’ generation–reading the newspaper daily is not an ingrained routine for me. As a result, I stopped getting the Washington Post in, like, 2003. More generally, the diversity of my media tastes declined as I’ve buried myself in book projects. There was just something about living in D.C., without getting the Post, without a T.V., and without a car to listen to NPR in while driving, that left me out of the loop at times. That and traveling and being inundated with work–with little time to seek out more diverse media even if I wanted to.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ve always closely followed news in areas in which I specialize, like, say, global warming or the politics of science. But in terms of broad media consumption, for a while I kind of became Exhibit A of what Nisbet is always talking about. In a highly fragmented media environment, it was all too easy for me to gravitate solely towards information that already fit what I was interested in and trying to learn more about. In fact, almost without knowing it, I lapsed into a considerably more selective pattern of media consumption than had been the norm for me when I was mainly writing shorter forms of journalism.
That’s a chief reason why it is that out here in LA, I’ve consciously decided to start getting the paper again. Driving, meanwhile, may have its hassles, but it’s also reacquainting me with NPR (um, doesn’t it, like, rock?). Meanwhile, just being out here also has me much more attuned to entertainment media (not surprisingly). So my whole information menu is changing–for the better.
But forget about me for a second: I’m the kind of wonk who reads and writes on issues of media consumption. I can make a choice to alter my informational fare if I think I’m not getting enough protein–and that’s precisely what I’m doing. And in general, I’m pretty well informed to begin with, despite this self-critique.
But what about the rest of America? That’s a troubling, troubling thought.