Saturday, November 2, 2013

Oct-Nov exSPIREment: Read the Newspaper, episode 4

Two days ago, on October 31, I completed my first exSPIREment to read the newspaper!  In this self-study, I set out to read the Wall Street Journal every day for the month of October.  I chose the Wall Street Journal because Nick's business school tuition includes a weekday subscription to the newspaper.   

Results and Discussion

For the 31 days of October, I estimate I missed reading on 7 days due to various reasons (the newspaper wasn't delivered, time management, I just didn't want to, I didn't find an online source to read over the weekend).  I hypothesized that reading the newspaper would 1) improve my knowledge of politics and world events, 2) improve my ability to navigate the newspaper and skim articles, and 3) teach me something or inspire a new idea.  All 3 of my hypotheses were supported... within just the first week!  By the middle of my exSPIREment I was tired of reading the newspaper.  It took too much time and I found myself skimming more and more.  By the end, I completely skipped the middle sections of the newspaper and solely focused on the main section that includes national and international news. 

As predicted, my pitfalls included identifying a consistent time of day to read, convincing myself to read the articles that at first bore me, and settling on an alternative to read on the weekends.  Surprisingly, I was not overwhelmed by the wealth of information in the paper (probably because I just ended up skimming or skipping a majority of it); however, I was extremely overwhelmed when I tried to read online alternatives.  

I've identified pros and cons of reading the Wall Street Journal as my main source of news.
  • Pro: A paper news source has a limited amount of information (unlike an online source, where one can keep clicking indefinitely), so I do not feel overwhelmed.
  • Con: The Wall Street Journal has a marketplace/finance/economic spin on all articles, something I'm not too interested in. 
  • Pro: A paper news source allows one to easily skip articles he/she doesn't want to read (unlike a television or radio program, where one must listen through the entire segment).
  • Con: A paper source does not have the most up-to-date, ground-breaking news (unlike an online, television, or radio source).
  • Pro/Con: The Wall Street Journal is not a local newspaper, meaning I am spared the dreadful daily tragedies happening right in Philly; however, that also means I am not aware of important community news and issues.
  • Pro: A paper news source is portable. 
This was the method I developed on 
  1. Read the "What's News" column on the left side of the front page.  This section is essentially an annotated table of contents.  It gives a 1 sentence description of the main articles and where they can be found in the paper.  Mentally note the ones that sound interesting/important/relevant.  For me, this is the most useful part of the paper.  In just a few minutes, I am able to get a general idea of the main events.
  2. Review all articles on the front page of the paper.  This does not necessarily mean read each in depth.  Instead, read the title and a few sentences from each article.  There's a reason (though maybe not always a great reason) they've made the front page of the paper.  
  3. Flip through the remainder of the main section (A).  In general, the main section is laid out beginning with U.S. News, then World News, then Opinion.
  4. Go back to step 1 and read any articles you made mental note of.
  5. Flip through the remaining sections of the paper.  Read titles and if anything strikes you, read the first paragraph.  In general, the Wall Street Journal is pretty good at putting the key piece of news in the first couple sentences of the article.  If you're compelled to learn more, continue reading, if not then move on.
  6. Continue until satisfied.
Caveat 1: If you only read the titles and first paragraphs of each article, know that you are only getting the "conclusion" and missing any details that may indicate how valid this "conclusion" is.  If you read the entire article, you will be able to make a more informed decision for yourself on the pieces of information worth taking away and what is fact versus opinion.

Caveat 2: All news is biased.  Even if you read each article thoroughly, know that every story is told from a certain perspective.  Not everything that is presented is a fact.  Opinion is inherently intermixed because which facts are presented is a choice made by the writer/editor.  Everything you read/hear must be taken with a grain of salt.  You must be a critical reader and take away only what is valid.     

Future Directions

Throughout this month of November, I will attempt to establish new habits based on the findings of my exSPIREment.  Specifically, I feel that I do need to continue to incorporate some form of the news into my daily life; however, I'd like to search for alternatives to the Wall Street Journal.  Other forms of news include television news programs, radio, phone apps, online newspapers/magazines, or other hard-copy newspapers.  I am open to suggestions!  Ideally, I would be able to multi-task being informed by the news with another daily task (e.g., walking to/from work or exercising).  

How are you informing yourself of local and world events?