Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

An admission and a startling revelation

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It’s difficult to admit this, but recently I fell into the habit of reading more of my news online than in print.

I know what you’re thinking. Columnist for a large metropolitan newsPAPER and he doesn’t even pick up a copy of the actual paper. I’m guilty, with an explanation.

Over the past year, I have travelled a lot. Some has been for work, and there was a lot of personal travel mixed in. I always, ALWAYS, bought newspapers to read while I travelled. Not on the airplanes, because size-large people like me already have trouble getting our legs wedged into the seats, and thus opening up a broadsheet newspaper is pretty much out of the question. But in the airports, nothing got me in the mood for a flight like a good cup of coffee and a couple of newspapers.

(I will add that I still read many magazines and pay the exorbitant price to have recent copies of The Economist and The New Yorker with me on a plane. When I return home, they are placed on top of the toilet tank in all my bathrooms at home. No matter what the medium, the throne is still the best place for thoughtful reading.)

However, starting last fall with the federal election, I found I was hustling to and fro so much, I didn’t have the time to sit down and crack open a paper. So, I was reading everything on line. In large part, I blame wifi for this awful trend.

Prior to the wireless internet revolution, the only way to read a paper outside of the office was by actually having a copy of the paper handy. Now, thanks to Starbucks and other hotspot cafes, and my trusty wifi antenna, I can get access to leading newspapers anywhere, anytime.

I always checked the headlines in the National Post, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star each morning. But now I was neglecting to actually buy a copy of the paper and relying almost entirely on the web presentation.

That was the pattern right up until the last two weeks of July, when I was on vacation. Freed from the pressures of a daily work routine, I returned to my first love and started picking up hard copies of the papers. The experience was quite illuminating.

I read more stories. I read more stories all the way to the end. I read stories I might never have read had I been forced to "choose" it from a list of stories online. In all, I spent more time reading, and was much better read and informed when it was all done. And my eyes were not burning vats of goo when I was done.

Now, I’m not completely objective because I make a living primarily from the application of print on paper. But giving myself over to the evil of on-line news, and then returning to the dead-tree product was a real eye opener. There are many challenges ahead for the ink-on –paper medium but I’m reasonably confident that as an actual mode of delivering information, it’s still pretty good technology.

I have always believed ink on paper was destined to survive, in large part because it remains perhaps the best way of imparting the written word to readers. I know some will argue against that theory (and it’s my hope you will argue with me in the comments section below) but I think that every on-line news junkie should take a week and tryout the old technology and see how it feels.

Got to go now and read an actual hard-copy of the Free Press.

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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