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Steve Eaton: Read a real newspaper, get ink on your fingers, save the world

Take a look at your fingers. Are they darkened with news ink? I didn’t think so. We have got a problem.

I would like to speak in favor of old-fashioned newspapers, the kind you pay for, fold up and put under your arm on the way to work. (I know, I know, you’re thinking in black and white, a-la-mode “Leave It to Beaver.”)

Have you ever wondered why reality television thrives, arrogant people often succeed and Donald Trump can run for president? It’s due to the lack of ink on our fingers. The decline of civilization, as we know it, is because so many people are no longer processing the news the way it is meant to be digested — on paper, opened up on a table, one page at a time.

I know that now you can carry nearly every newspaper in the country in your smartphone. If you just pull the electronic digital plug, you can be flooded with the latest breaking news from everywhere, plus historical data from the ages, and it’s all available the minute you stop watching cat videos.

I’m just saying there is great value in getting your foundational news every day from a real newspaper, written by professional, local journalists with high standards. A daily newspaper is this amazing foldout publication that includes news about international trade, distant wars, local horrors, chocolate chip cupcakes, the comics, the ankle injuries of our favorite athletes and speculation about whether Vice President Joe Biden might run for president. A newspaper offers you the kind of diverse news that even a parakeet can appreciate once you are finished with it.

The truth is that when news is offered up buffet style online, we all pick the Cheetos junk food news, not the boring fruits and vegetables that should be part of our news diet. I gravitate toward news about UFOs, Bigfoot, Maui vacations and then I click on that fake news teaser on the side that reads: “Ten shocking things people do in yoga class.” If I don’t see the stories laid out properly before me, I tend to skip over things like what is really going on with Obamacare, the mysteries of global warming and what’s going to happen to Social Security the day I turn 66.

I can hear you already: “I don’t even care about that news. Blah, blah, blah. Only an idiot doesn’t see what Obamacare is doing, all real Americans know what the truth is about global warming and … did you say people do shocking things in yoga class?” Listen to yourself. Look at your fingers. No news ink on your fingers and now you don’t even care anymore.

Another problem with getting all your news online is that you never get the sense of completion you get from reading a real newspaper. Even if you don’t read every story, if you turn all the pages, you have read the newspaper that day. There’s no bottom to a digital news pile.

Now I admit, there is an important place for online news. You can dig into the issues that are important to you. You can select your news from a source you trust. Some people are drawn to the Deseret News online, for example, because it includes stories about things that interest them that they aren’t likely to find elsewhere. Other people are still sore that they don’t own an original copy of President Obama’s birth certificate. They can find a place to read about just that, if they want to.

And, yes, it is true, to a greater or lesser extent, that even daily newspapers tend to lean one direction or the other, just like online sources. Grown-ups are supposed to be able filter, weigh and process such things. If you go to an Italian restaurant, you shouldn’t get all indignant and roll your eyes if there is no Chinese food on the menu.

I stack my newspapers on a table and then, armed with an Exacto knife, I go through them a page a time, slicing out the stories I think are worth spending more time with later. I have ink, not just on my hands, but all over our house. There are inky fingerprints on the table, on the door jams by our recycling bins and on nearly every other white surface in the house. While my wife doesn’t agree, I know that’s exactly the way it should be.

At work, I have shared my shredded newspapers with others by leaving them on a table in the break room. I like to think they’ll see this thing of value, snatch it up and then, as they go through the paper a page a time, they’ll notice that several stories have been carefully cut out of the publication. I worry, however, they’ll become incensed, obsessed and preoccupied trying to find out what news is missing. That’s what a journalist would do.

But they don’t do that. If they are under 50, they don’t pick up the paper in the first place. They don’t want to get ink on their fingers. Instead, they go out online where there is no way to notice or sense that any important news is missing from their diet and they end up watching funny videos about people falling.

And that is why I think, my inkless friends, we are all in trouble.

Steve Eaton lives in Logan. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com