Vending Box News

This is originally a tip from Daniel, but it works for me, too!

We still subscribe to our local newspaper, the actual paper kind, because I like to read it while eating and I don’t like to eat at the computer at home (since my lunch at work, and in fact my whole day at work, is typically in front of the computer). However, because I read nearly all of the newspaper, we have a Sunday-only subscription and it typically takes me until at least Tuesday to read the whole thing. Buying only one newspaper a week is thrifty and good for the environment.

The only problem is, sometimes important developments in the news happen in the middle of the week. I listen to a radio station that plays the NPR headline news several times a day, but it doesn’t include local news.

Daniel pointed out to me, several years ago, that in the walkable urban neighborhoods where we live and work, newspaper vending boxes are plentiful. Without buying a paper, you can see all the headlines on the top half of the front page and, if you like, crouch down and read the first part of an article.

Now that I’m aware of this, I find it’s a really easy way to stay informed of the day’s top stories. It’s quicker than going to a Website, where I’m tempted to read whole articles and poke around amid the less-important stuff. There are no annoying ads on the top half of a front page. And it’s free!

In particular, there are vending boxes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and USA Today on the corner where my four-year-old son and I wait (often for two or three minutes) to cross the street, twice a day. Not only do I get my news, but Nicholas often looks at the pictures and/or asks questions about the news. That brings up some interesting, if sometimes difficult, things to talk about: What is the G-20?  What is a casino–well, why would anyone want to go there?! Why does President Obama need to meet other presidents and shake their hands, instead of just talk on the phone? Who is Angelina Jolie, and why do people care so much what she does? Why did that man kill police officers he didn’t even know? Why is that puppy today’s top story–what does “a slow news day” mean?

I’d much rather glance at newspaper vending boxes than have televisions everywhere flinging CNN in my face, as is the growing trend. I can choose not to look at newspapers if I don’t feel up to learning the news right now, whereas a noisy, blinking TV is hard to ignore. And TV is so inane and sensationalistic, even compared to USA Today. Right after the death of Michael Jackson, we ate several meals in a convention center food court equipped with televisions, and I struggled to keep my appetite as CNN showed more and more and more footage of the worst moments of his last years, the transcript of the 911 call, etc.–why couldn’t they just play all his music videos?? (I know, copyrights, blah blah blah…but a few of his videos, in full–not brief clips with anchorpeople blathering narration–were what I most wanted to see as commemoration of Michael Jackson’s life, and in two hours of hotel channel-surfing that week I couldn’t find any station showing them!) I was almost relieved when they switched to covering the election-related rioting in Iran–it was easier to explain to a four-year-old!

I have a couple of funny stories about my many years of checking the vending-box news, which I may as well tell at this point:

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was running for governor of California, one of the papers ran a large photo of a woman holding up a sign that said Democratic Women Love Arnold! I happened to do a lot of walking around that day running errands, and every time I saw that front page, my brain connected to the rap lyric Feminist women love Eminem! and then subjected me to at least half an hour of relentless I’m Slim Shady, yes I’m the real Shady…

Walking around the hospital three days after my son was born, when I had been discharged but he was still being treated for jaundice, I vaguely noticed the headline TSUNAMI STRIKES ASIA and thought, boy, that’s sloppy; there are a lot of countries in Asia; couldn’t they say which one? It wasn’t until later that night that I learned that that was quite the tsunami and basically did strike Asia overall! It was huge, huge news, to which I was ridiculously oblivious for more than 24 hours, because hey, I’d just had a baby, and his eensy weensy fingers were the most fascinating thing in the world.

One thought on “Vending Box News

  1. Pingback: When robots write the news « The Earthling's Handbook

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