What watches and newspapers have in common: they're irrelevant, says my daughter Last weekend, my 16-year-old daughter, Sydney, and I decided to see a movie matinee, but we didn't know exactly what we wanted to see. So, I said to her, "Grab the newspaper - it's right over there beside my chair." "I'll just look it up online," she replied. Her thumbs went into hyper-mode and she furiously began banging away on her Sidekick. "Wouldn't it just be faster to get the paper?" I wondered aloud. "Maybe, but I'd rather look it up this way. Besides, the times are more usually more accurate online. I hate using a paper. You have to look too hard for stuff." Before I could offer an argument in praise of lowly newsprint, she said, "How about Akeelah and the Bee at 3:00?" As we drove to the theatre, I decided to quiz her further on her distaste for using a newspaper. I've read one daily since I was about 10 and now read at least three every morning by 8:00. I still like to turn the pages, study the actual placement of a story on the page, notice the size and type of font. All these are clues on how significant the editors thought the story was. In other words, seeing the physical paper actually makes stories MORE relevant to me, not less. Sydney feels exactly the opposite. Her argument was that reading the news online is more relevant because you can have an automatic filter send only the stories you are likely to be interested in. Ah ha! I had her on this point. I dreamily recalled all the fascinating things I've read and learned on my way to looking for something else. Not to be outdone, Sydney reminded me that with the time I wasted getting sidetracked, I could have read more stories I KNEW I'd be interested in because my filters would have sent them to me. I suppose our differing viewpoints are largely generational. And if recent numbers from the Newspaper Association of America are right, more people lean toward Sydney's viewpoint than mine. That's why newspaper circulation is falling while online news is growing like crazy. The good news is, smart editors will be able to find a way to keep their papers relevant to readers in my corner and those in Sydney's at the same time. Why not move more content online? There are many parts of a newspaper that probably lend themselves better to online coverage (stock listings, for example). I hope hard copy newspapers won't go the way of the dinosaur during my lifetime. Although I spend several hours a day online and am very comfortable with technology, there's just no substitute for the tactile experience a newspaper can offer. And though I read many publications online, I still don't think you can get the true essence of a story on a screen in the way you can when you're holding it. By the way, when Sydney and I left the theatre, I asked her what time it was. (I had forgotten to put my watch on and was feeling almost naked.) She looked at her phone, then answered. "Why don't you wear that lovely watch you got for your birthday?" "Why would anyone wear a watch?" she replied, seemingly puzzled. "All they can do is tell time."
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