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Who would have thought I would actually enjoy reading the newspaper?

How the news can provide both social and academic benefits if you just give it a chance

Like many of my Gen Z peers, I never got into the habit of sitting down in the morning with a cup of coffee to read the newspaper. In the past, I’ve made efforts to make reading the news a part of my daily routine — however, the stack of unread emails from different news sources that sit in my inbox each morning indicate that these attempts have been consistently unsuccessful. This semester, though, one of my classes requires students to browse headlines and read articles in the newspaper every single day.

Our assignment is to read the “Financial Times,” a periodical that covers everything from financial markets to the visual arts. Despite convenient access to a single newsource that covers a broad swath of topics, I struggled to keep up with the news. It was easy to forget, and even if I did remember, it was difficult to bring myself to flip through articles every day.

But I knew this time was different, or at least it had to be, as there’s much more at stake — namely, the grade I earn in this class. So with this academic incentive in mind, I kept trying. I knew that keeping up with the news for my class would require me to ingrain this habit into my life, so I enlisted the help of my phone. I downloaded the “Financial Times” app so that I could have access to reading material throughout the day wherever I was. I then allowed the app to flood my phone with notifications about new features and stories.

Finally, after a month or so, reading the news every day became habitual. Like switching between Instagram and Snapchat, opening the news on my phone became a subconscious act. But then I started to realize something else. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media while I waited for the light to change at a crosswalk one day, I noticed myself voluntarily opening up “Financial Times.” Reading through news articles every day began to represent a routine and substantial part of my life as I began to actually enjoy and even look forward to it.

Reading the news every day also gave me a new awareness of current events that allowed me to better engage in conversation with people. To clarify, it’s not that I didn't care about what was happening in the world before this semester. Rather, the news stood in the background of my life and didn’t demand much of my attention. But now, when my friends who study government begin discussing foreign policy or taxation, I’m not only able to understand the context of their views but also contribute meaningfully to the conversation. 

This heightened understanding and awareness from reading the news also provides what I think can best be described as “small talk material” — that is, topics that most people have a general sense of. Scrolling through a periodical a few times per day generally provides fascinating bits of information that I’ve used to start or continue conversations. In other words, reading the news can make you a better conversationalist by acting as a source of relevant topics. For example, when the initial conversation lulls during a Zoom breakout room, I can easily restart it with a simple question about current events in the world such as — “Hey, did you guys hear about that ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal this week?” 

But beyond awareness and its conversational perks, the news also provides us with an informal education. Although often oversimplified, many articles include explanations about complex issues regarding everything from financial instruments to technological innovations. For example, I recently read an article that explained how Google can track Android users’ web browsing behavior. Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “Who cares about how that works?” — but that’s not my point. Instead, I want to highlight the satisfaction related to learning. 

Honestly, I dislike learning about politics. However, I still find gratification and enjoyment in accumulating more knowledge about our government and expanding my understanding of the world — and that’s exactly what reading the newspaper affords. So as students, reading the news every day is really to our benefit, as it pays both social and academic dividends. Also, with the gift — or curse — of technology, we can read it at our leisure from our phones — on the bus, in between classes or even while waiting for our Roots bowls. 

So, whether you're a first-year student at home this semester or a middle-aged member of a larger community, I strongly recommend taking advantage of this simple habit. It’s so important that we continue to educate ourselves and to engage with our peers. Reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in the morning may seem like an artifact of the past, but that doesn’t mean we're better off without it.

Mario Rosales is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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