This afternoon I had a personal first- the first time I’ve ever read a news magazine in its entirety, front-to-back. Past issues of The Economist and The New Republic have come close, but there was always a trailing off towards the end. There is nothing special about the June issue of Mother Jones. No special feature drew me towards it, just an interest in some investigative journalism in an era characterized by recycling and Wikipedia plagiarism.
What the experience ended up being about is countering the 21st century tendency to only read news funneled towards you. Many of us buy something off the news rack due to the main feature; an enticing headline makes the few dollars worth spending. Reading methodically gives you the full breadth of ideas, and gets you interested in topics that you’ve never been exposed towards. Another habit of mine is to listen to albums beginning-to-end. The catchy singles may be great, but there is satisfaction in a complete picture of what the band was trying to accomplish.
With Facebook and tailored news sites, there’s an immense temptation to gorge on old favorites. And every time you click on another story on Orange is the New Black, or marriage equality, or whatever, algorithms tilt even more towards those topics. To be sure, this has eliminated a lot of crap we have no interest in, but it also isolates us. Technology optimists are right, information is a wonderful thing, but it’s only useful if people see and use it.