If you've run into me between Monday and Friday anytime in the last 25 years, there's a very good chance that there was a newspaper tucked under my arm, sticking out of my briefcase, or shielding me from the world on the IRT. Sometimes all of the above. Indeed, I rejoiced last year when the NY Times in a cost saving measure followed the lead of the Wall Street Journal and re-sized so that for the first time in my adult life the two papers were the same width and could be folded and read as one. This could be a metaphor for the life of any critical thinker - welcoming all points of view and attempting to sort through them in search of a personal version of the truth. It goes without saying that a newspaper reader has a broader world view and more informed opinions than most others. This can verge on the ridiculous as I found this morning when a TV news story on the problems in the Congo got me started on Laurent Kabila and his mis-rule in the '90's. Still, I think the world would be a better place and a Republican would be entering the White House had President Bush read a newspaper every once in a while. It may be too much of a stretch to say that this was his biggest failing but it certainly contributed in some way to many of them. Don't get me wrong, a President should not be deciding our fate based on what Gail Collins (NYT) or Paul Gigot (WSJ) think he should do. Nor should he ignore what his advisors say in favor of the latest (and undoubtedly biased) Reuters dispatch. But a blind over-reliance on agenda driven staffers gets us into quagmires. Damn, I'm really digressing.
The point here is that the newspaper industry is in truly dire straits. As I rode the aforementioned IRT this morning I read that Cox Newspapers (Atlanta Consitution, Austin Statesmen) and Advance Publishing (Newark Star-Ledger, Cleveland Plain Dealer)were both closing their Washington D.C. bureaus. Are you kidding me? But then I looked around me. Whereas 20, or even 10 years ago the Lexington Ave. Line would be a cacophony of Posts, and Daily News, and NYT's and WSJ's, it is now a melange of iPods, people watching movies on PSP's (!) and playing video games on their cell phones. I truly worry about our society. Do people really know what's going on in the world? Can they think critically? Do they know that the new Bouley restaurant is only "satisfactory"? I bet more people based their votes on SNL and the creepy Shepard Fairey "Hope" poster (which, in a final insult, now haunts me from the cover of Time magazine) than did from editorial page endorsements. Not that the outcome would have been any different. And I wish our new President all possible success because, after all, I am an American. As a society, we can also put some of this sickening idolatry to good use. For instance, I have never had much success convincing my children that they should turn out lights and turn off the TV when they leave a room. However, a single invocation of the President-elect's directive to conserve energy and, voila, complete darkness. Sometimes while they are still in the room! So here is my semi-serious solution to a very serious problem. Barack Obama's positive influence on young people is well documented and truly inspirational. Even I am guilty of being a little inspired. So, if you want people to put down their iPhones and begin reading newspapers again, hand the new President a paper. Let's see a photo of him in the Oval Office with a Washington Post or striding to the waiting Marine One helicpoter with a sharply folded Wall Street Journal under his arm or surrounded by his beautiful family on a Sunday morning at Camp David with the NY Times Magazine Section laying in his lap while he dozes before the Redskins game. If only the housing crisis were so easy to solve.