The skills I never knew I needed to read the newspaper
This is my first semester as a journalism major here at San Antonio College.
As the semester progressed and I learned about the in-depth work it took to put together a news story, I decided I should try to learn from some of the best at The New York Times.
I decided that because I wanted to write for a newspaper, I should start reading the physical paper instead of online articles.
Little did I know how many difficulties and internal dilemmas this everyday task would have.
Life lesson one, reading the newspaper takes skill.
I am 25 years old, with the true heart of a millennial.
The fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a significant internal struggle I have when making decisions.
I realize this struggle translates over to reading the newspaper, too.
I started my newspaper adventure with The New York Times Sunday paper because I heard it was the best.
The paper was gigantic.
Not only was the paper itself twice as thick as my hand, but it had two magazines stuffed inside it, too.
How was I going to read through all of this tiny print on so many huge pages in one day?
I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of potentially beautiful information placed before me and unsure of how to navigate through it.
I had heard that people take out the sections of the paper they enjoy and leave the rest of it, but how am I supposed to know what stories to choose with such broad sections like business, arts, and travel?
I love pieces about all of those categories.
I started asking some older people around.
After the initial ridicule was over, people explained I should only read what applies to my life or information I find interesting.
But my question remained, “How do I know which stories those are before reading the entire article?”
I tried to just read the headlines, but I immediately felt uneasy about it.
In my classes, I have been working hard to create attention-grabbing headlines for my stories, but my headlines rarely live up to my expectations.
I might have written an incredible article but a subpar headline, so who’s to say the same can’t happen here.
Additionally, all my life I have been told not to judge a book by the cover yet now I am expected to judge a story based on its headline?
Life lesson two, read what you want and don’t worry about the rest.
Clearly, this is a skill of mine that is underdeveloped.
Next comes the skill of physically holding the paper.
I started with the classic two-handed extension hold like I have seen my grandparents do at the kitchen table with their morning coffee.
This is the most prestigious of the holds in my mind, but after a few stories, your forearms begin to weaken.
So, I flipped to the half-sheet fold for a while, but the news sheets are still too large to comfortably master a one-handed hold with this fold.
Finally, I flipped it down to the quarter-sheet fold.
It was small enough for me to hold in one hand and close enough where tiny print no longer felt far removed.
I finally felt a small piece of success arrive at this place of both holding the paper in a way where it was both comfortable and felt dignified.
This success came crashing down when I realized my story continued in another part of the paper that lay mysteriously buried somewhere within my folds.
Instead of being able to keep this dignified appearance and simply turning to the other side of the paper, I had to go on an unfolding and flipping mission search for the missing part.
Then, as twist of fate has it, the wind picked up.
When I started this adventure, it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so I made the decision to enjoy the newspaper at a picnic table by the river.
So as the wind picked up I soon realized another critical skill I was missing… putting the sections back together.
This definitely is not an issue with digital copy.
When I finished reading a section I simply placed it on top of the other part of the newspaper, which was fine until the wind decided to send my sections in different directions.
When you receive the paper, it comes in one cohesive stack, a key fact that I soon realized the importance of.
You can’t carry the dignity associated with reading a newspaper when you are chasing after sections in the wind.
Life lesson three, when trying something new take the time to pay attention to small details, because they were likely done for a purpose.
By this point, I was over reading the newspaper.
I had given the Sunday paper a shot, but it was a bigger bite than I could chew.
I decided to take baby steps and only receive the Monday through Friday subscription.
While I had significantly improved the development of my newspaper reading skills from this one experience, there was another unforeseen issue I ran into.
The newspaper comes every single day.
I know this doesn’t feel like an issue, but as a full-time college student who is trying to balance school and help run the family business, free time is scarce.
When I was able to take a moment to read parts of the paper, I felt so accomplished.
But the more I got into the paper, the more I would see another story that seemed interesting.
I would plan to come back to the interesting headline the following day when I had another free moment, but with a new day comes a whole new paper filled with new stories holding new potential information that could be relevant to my life.
I became overwhelmed by all the new.
Life lesson four, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
So here I am, paying for a paper simply to be delivered to me and then go into the trash can a few days later because I barely make it through what happened on Monday, much less Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays’ papers.
Despite all of these humorous setbacks, I have enjoyed receiving The New York Times this past month.
I have learned a lot of new information and laughed a lot about my learning curve of reading a newspaper successfully.
I have now had more conversations about how to read a newspaper than I ever imagined possible.
I even had my younger brother, 22 years old, read one for the first time.
He sat there reading, with the classic two-handed extension hold, and somehow held all the prestige I desired.
Internally, I was incredibly frustrated and confused.
I started questioning all of the struggles I had been experiencing the past month and was ashamed of my underdeveloped newspaper skills.
I started wondering if I was unique with these struggles, and maybe reading a newspaper was something that came naturally to people.
Once my brother had finished reading the story and saw the visual frustration and confusion on my face he informed me, “You have to remember Kay, when I was 5, I use to practice holding the newspaper because I thought Papa and Grandma looked so dignified reading it.”
So, the truth is out, I am not alone in my struggle.
Life lesson five, even if you don’t hear anyone else talking about it, you are never alone in your problems.