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All the News That's Fit To Print

by Stephen Lautens


February 21, 2003

My wife and I have fundamentally different approaches to reading the newspaper. She reads every single story in every paper in the house. On the weekend it may take until well after lunch, but she goes through the paper from front to back.

I, on the other hand, am a skimmer. I flip through the various newspapers to see what headlines catch my eye. Aside from a few favourite columnists (at this paper of course), I have to admit that most days I flip through the entire paper in record time.

Part of the problem is there are a few writers (not at this paper of course) who you know what they’re going to say before they say it. Whether it’s the Liberals, guns, God or taxes, you only have to read the first line to know what the rest of the story is about.

The older I get the more I realize how little most "news" affects me. I don’t care whether movie stars are adopting children, getting divorced or are engaged for the third time to J-Lo. Michael Jackson’s weirdness is hardly news, and doesn’t really concern me unless there’s an invitation for my son in the mailbox for a sleepover at his Neverland Ranch. Joe Millionaire, Temptation Island and Survivor are not news. Heck, they barely qualify as entertainment.

My wife and I are well matched. There is no fighting over the newspaper in the morning. While my wife diligently reads the big stories, I’m fascinated by the little tiny stories newspapers use to fill the otherwise empty corners of the paper. They’re usually only one paragraph and almost always pretty goofy. Still, when we’re done it’s sometimes like my wife and I have read totally different newspapers.

"Did you read the budget analysis?" my wife will ask. "The fiscal stimulus package is going to complicate the Bank of Canada’s efforts to keep inflation under control, and they may respond by raising interest rates."

"I think I glanced at it," I’ll say, "but did you see about the guy caught at the airport trying to smuggle live snakes into the country in his underwear?"

"I must have missed that one," she’ll admit. "But what about the item about Britain’s Prime Minster Tony Blair facing civil war in his own party over his backing the United States’ war with Iraq?"

"I remember seeing his picture but I can’t say I read the article." I often find you can guess what the story is about if you look at the picture. The photo of Tony Blair had him looking tired and determined, so I guessed he was in trouble over something. "By the way, did you see that Iran has banned Valentine’s Day as part of Western culture and had their secret police out scooping up all the cards and hearts they could find?"

She said that she couldn’t recall that particular story. Neither had she read about the company in Thailand that makes ice cream out of snakehead fish.

"Surely you saw that there was a 30 per cent increase in UFO sightings last year in British Columbia," I asked. "I’m guessing it has something to do with the change in the marijuana laws."

My wife couldn’t recall seeing that story either, although she could tell me about the Turkish objections to the US using them as forward bases for Iraq, North Korea threatening to withdraw from the 1953 armistice and cracks in the NATO alliance.

And she calls that news. I don’t know where she reads it.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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