Every single Sunday morning since my son was born, my wife and I have enjoyed a relatively simple tradition. While she gets a few extra minutes of sleep—or, more likely (given her indomitable work ethic), tends to the daily chores—I take Porter to Goldberg’s, grab a few fresh bagels and the Sunday edition of the Washington Post, and head back home. Maura and I then spend the next two hours or so noshing, lounging, and reading the paper while our son plays at our feet. By the time we’re done, it’s barely ten o’clock. We’ve eased into the day and made a genuine, reflective sabbath of sorts out of the morning.
We both reach for the Outlook section first; it’s consistently the best writing in the paper, and more often than not it gives us great fodder for discussion. The main section gets read, of course, as does the arts section… at least if it’s got theater coverage. I dip into sports, though the paper barely covers any teams I actually care about. There are one or two comics I might glance at—but if I don’t take the time, I don’t miss them—and I do always flip through the magazine, too, if only half-heartedly. The rest, as they say, is silence: a heap of ready-to-recycle pages that feel as if they hold nothing of vitality in them… or nothing that matters to Maura and I, at least.
A few Sundays ago, I found myself feeling rather bored with our reading material. It wasn’t a good week: the news was dull, the opinions vapid, the arts seemingly unimaginative… and I found myself wishing very dearly that I could be reading a different paper instead: specifically, the New York Times. I do very much love the Sunday Times: the crossword puzzle alone has led me to plunk down six bucks (or whatever ridiculous sum they charge for a copy outside New York) more than once. The science coverage is better, the arts coverage is more compelling, the magazine more entertaining. Aside from the overly wordy sports reporting, what’s not to love?
The truth be told, however, there are even vast swaths of that most auspicious paper that leave me cold. I don’t need to know about New York-centric stories. I don’t need New York classified ads. I don’t give a damn about the Yankees. In time, I’m sure, I’d find even the Times lacking for our Sunday ritual.
You know what I would love, however? A paper that consists of the following sections:
- News, editorials, arts, and the magazines from the Washington Post and New York Times; science from the Times, too
- Sports from the Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and perhaps the Post
- Only the three or four comics I actually care about
- One or two surprising things I haven’t asked for, just to keep me honest and on my toes
- NOTHING ELSE
Does such a publication exist? No, of course not. Yes, I’m sure I could use some fancy news reader to arrange something along those lines, then print it out and “deliver it” to me in a stack of 8.5″ x 11″ sheets waiting in my printer’s out tray every Sunday morning, just for my reading pleasure… but that wouldn’t be a pleasure, you see? Part of the routine is the big broad sheets unfolded around the room. I would miss that.
What I really want, of course, personalization. (I’ve written about that before, as you might recall.) I don’t want to be reading the same paper everyone else in DC is reading. I don’t even want to read the same paper my wife is reading—she’d probably want sections from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, too, and she wouldn’t care about sports whatsoever. There’s probably no one alive who’d prefer the same mix as me.
When I was growing up in Baltimore, I used to hold the romantic notion that all the men and women heading to Big Important Jobs had all read the same paper that morning, or were going to read the same paper that evening (we had two editions), and were thus in on some kind of group secret. They knew what needed to be known; they were worried about what needed to be worried about. That romance now? Obliterated.
The first news publisher who solves this problem, I am convinced, will become rich, and will enrich the world as well. I highly suspect, however, that the news industry is beyond saving, and that I’ll ultimately get something like what I’m asking for in some other way. I’ll probably have to switch from a printed document to some sort of tablet reader. too. Woe will be me on that front, though I’ll be happy for the trees whose lives we’ll be sparing.
For the time being, however, I will subsist on the Sunday Washington Post, and be grateful at least for the outstanding bagels, as well as the morning of rest, connection, and conversation with my family, which no newspaper (or lack thereof) could replace.