A few months into the pandemic, I noticed two things: that news was becoming far more stressful to consume and that I was also checking it more often. This was when I made the decision to subscribe to the local newspaper. It didn’t take long before I started to enjoy my newfound morning ritual of quietly reading the paper over a strong cup of coffee or tea.
Newspapers are perhaps one of the world’s oldest subscription services—and subscribing came with a few surprises. For starters, it’s surprisingly affordable, especially when you consider what you’re getting: a daily briefing of what’s happening in your city and around the world, printed and dropped on your doorstep, all before you wake up (if you’re like me and use the news to inform your work, it’s also a business expense). The subscription fee for my local newspaper clocks in at $25 a month. The national paper I subscribe to, The Globe and Mail, costs about $45 over the same period.
Nearly a year into my subscription, I’m realizing something far more significant than the value-for-money. Subscribing to a physical newspaper has been an investment in my mental health. When it comes to the news, the medium is the message. Online news is reactive, anxiety-inducing, and a large source of chronic stress in our modern lives. Chronic stress is what causes burnout, and so the cost of consuming online news can be high. While news sites and apps refresh every few minutes, a physical newspaper refreshes once a day: when it arrives on your doorstep.
A newspaper also exposes you to new perspectives and a diversity of voices. We all know about clickbait news headlines. Online, the loudest voices and most urgent news stories rise to the top of our feeds, meaning this is the information we’re most likely to engage with. That engagement creates a cycle—the more a story is read, the more prominently it will be showcased on a news website. A quality newspaper is (usually) filled with more pragmatic, balanced opinions, something that isn’t always easy to find in today’s polarized world. This is an especially good time to support local journalism: filtering through and thoughtfully sharing what’s going on in our stressful world isn’t easy and deserves our support.
Local papers provide perspective on multiple levels. They share what’s going on in our city, but also zoom out to offer a window into our province or state, country, and world. At a local level, you can learn about cool events, updates, and resources that may never float to the surface through an online algorithm.
On top of these benefits, a newspaper will save you time, attention, and energy—the three ingredients of productivity. You safeguard your time because you won’t constantly feel the compulsion to check the news throughout the day—you can instead compartmentalize it into a calm morning reading ritual. You conserve energy because you won’t burn out due to the chronic stress and anxiety that comes with reading online news. And you defend your attentional space because you will be less distracted by ongoing stressful updates.
But here’s what I consider the best part: subscribing to a physical newspaper puts the onus on that media outlet to keep you informed. You’re not forced to fend for yourself on news websites filled with an overwhelming amount of constantly updating content. There’s a lot of unnecessary noise out there—and a newspaper primarily gives us a signal. Further, a newspaper is analog, not digital, which forces us to slow down. In my opinion, subscribing to a paper is a 10/10 deliberate, reasoned, analytical, and all around excellent antidote to an overstressed world.
I probably sound ridiculous extolling the virtues of a subscription service that feels as old as time. And yet, in today’s anxious world, if you pause and think about it, you may just find a newspaper is exactly the type of subscription you need.