I love the Internet. (Yes, I pulled that line from the "Master of the Obvious" pile.) But I also love the newspaper. Both play a balanced role in my life. This morning as I was eating a scrumptious egg sandwich and reading the paper I realized something very special: without the newspaper I wouldn't have received a balance of world, national, and local news. If left to my own motivations, I would most likely only seek out information upon whatever niche topic I was thinking about at that moment. A newspaper is fundamentally a serendipitous exercise. No one but the editor knows what's on the following page.
Behaviorally I think web users -- let's not kid ourselves, all of us -- generally dig deeper into narrower topics of interest rather than broad interests. As a friend of mine Twittered to me the other day, it's the difference between getting a specialized degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree at a liberal arts school. This isn't knocking specialized interests, mind you. I just challenge the notion that the web has made us increasingly specialized and perhaps not as broadly intelligent as we might think.
So, think to yourself as you stare off into space some afternoon. What do you know about what happened in your neighborhood over the weekend (equivalent of Section B of the paper)? How did the U of M women's basketball team do yesterday? What's going on in Chinese unemployment trends? How are the Iraqis thinking about regional elections? Why does Charles Krauthammer think that Obama's already become a "same ol'" President (I'm not agreeing with him, by the way)?
I actually know the answers to these questions, not because I'm smart but simply because I read the newspaper this morning. As a result I have a short list of additional digging I'd like to do, and I'll use the web for that. I understand that many of you commenters can say, "Well, Andrew. I do use the StarTribune.com or the NYTimes.com for general news." But I challenge that notion as well because you're not truly being serendipitous online. You're selecting which stories to read by clicking links. And that's fine. But it's still self-directed, and I actually think I'm arguing that that behavior actually may be a less informing one than more.
So have at it? I'm purely curious and ready to have my mind changed by your thoughtful rebuttals.