The Aesthetics of Reading the New York Times:
Why the Choice is Crucial and Personal
I'm an old-fashioned aesthetic; I like to read my paper in a textual way. I want the rustling of the paper, the smell of ink, ink on my fingers, and my coffee cup. However, that’s simply how I prefer to read the paper and the question is which is better, print or digital? On this topic, I don’t believe there is a viable argument, as its proving rests almost solely in opinion. Studies can reflect that an individual reads or retains better on paper as opposed to digital, but people are people. If they consistently get their news on their iPhones on the way to work, a Harvard study isn’t going to make them start carrying the paper.
There are solid reasons for both sides; a business or economics major from DePaul might say that having digital access to media is critical to their effectiveness in the workplace. Numbers, data, and global situations have changed seven times between the printer publishing the newspaper and the reader opening it at the breakfast table. An individual working in a fast-paced career needs up-to-the minute news which is more readily available online. An art or English major, such as myself, might prefer to read the paper in the print format. Enjoying the richness of the paper, the serendipity of column and image placement, these sensorial experiences are required for that individual’s appreciation of their daily ritual. I mourn the death of print as a medium; I fear the end of such a wonderful gift, that we someday might be reading everything on a computer screen actually saddens me in a real way.
There is a third side to the question of print vs. digital. I think that the preference is crucial and personal; this is not an argument that anyone will win. I would not dream of advocating for one side or the other, as I would be loathe to allow someone to tell me that the convenience of digital access has superceded my ability to read my paper in print. I think that the real impact rests in the qualifier of one word in the question: students. The question isn’t how they’ll read, because they’ll read it however they want. An instructor can assign all the newspaper articles they’d like and if the student prefers to read it online they will, and if they prefer print, then that’s how they’ll read it.
The question is: is the exercise about responsibility? Is it about the responsibility of subscribing, carrying the paper to class, treating it like a textbook, and remembering to do the reading? It’s not so much about how they’re reading or what medium they use, those are all subjective. The real purpose is that most students are being exposed to something new, a different way of looking at the world. That’s why a person goes to college -- to be challenged, to learn something new, to grow and change. Sometimes it’s something as simple as carrying a paper around.