Marble Falls Bear with me, this is going to be a bit of a Luddite, techno-peasant peeve that I’m swearing can’t just be me, but truth be told, might not be too many more than me. It has to do with having the news managed, or I guess the more modern term would be curated, for me, when I’m forced to read news online. I’m not saying that I don’t do it, because when I’m away from home, what choice do I have, right? Frankly, I don’t trust their anonymous judgement of what might be the news that interests me the most. I know I’m not alone on that front.
Since I don’t trust that I’m actually getting “all the news fit to print” when reading online, my homecoming is always met with a stack of papers. I have to read the local news first, because there’s a line waiting for me to finish in the recycling system of our family. Nola.com, the online version of the Times-Picayune – New Orleans Advocate, I find impossible and maddening to navigate, so I refuse and depend on mi companera to tell me if the world I know there has ended. Next, I cycle through the New York Times first and then the Wall Street Journal. Online I daily read the Washington Post and every couple of days the UK’s Guardian, but I don’t care what I miss on those two.
It takes time and is aggravating, but this has been my practice for many years, because I almost invariably find two things. One, is that I discover articles important to my work and interest, that were not online, at least easily accessible to me, but we’ll get to that. Second, I find it easier to read the whole article in my hands that scrolling through it on my computer. I can’t even image the struggle of reading these papers on a mobile phone. Kill me now!
Here’s a good example of my pique. My displaced Houston buddy sent me a link to the latest scandal involving the video-scammer and criminally convicted rightwing provocateur, James O’Keefe. I couldn’t find it on the Times’ website as presented to subscribers, yet I knew from the link that it had to be there, and, by god, I wanted to find it and share it with all of you, which I did. I finally, after much frustration, found it by looking at the New York online list of articles towards the bottom. Why was a lawsuit about Project Veritas and its antics suddenly local news, even if it were filed in a New York court? Had my buddy not sent it to me, I could have missed O’Keefe’s latest misstep, all of which I savor.
It turns out with the Times and maybe the Journal, there’s a fix for my peeve, but it’s not easy. The Times offers something called the “replica edition” allowing you to read the edition page by page, if you have the eyes and the stamina. Some may subscribe to it separately and either way it sounds like you end up needing a separate password. Subscribers can somehow access it directly. You can also get something similar for the Journal, but I gave up looking when it turned out to be an Apple App, since I’m not an iPhone guy. Maybe there’s something similar, but in fairness, I gave up looking to continue living life.
My theory is that part of the contention about fake news lies in how hard it is for all of us to access news in common, accessible ways, as a people. Not being able to do so, makes it easier for many to believe anything they want, and the devil take the hindmost. Paywalls and subscriptions are serious barriers, and the hodgepodge of presentations online are incomplete, daunting, and, of course unavailable across the digital divide. For me, I may find my system frustrating, but possible, despite my complaints with the curators. For many, every incomplete story or missing item may seem intentional, even secret or conspiratorial, and that space is easily filled with rumor, Facebook, Fox, or some website planting their self-interest and ideology in the seams left by this vacuum created in the modern new world.
The real problem for me and everyone is that none of these workarounds are solutions.