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November 9, 2011

How to read a newspaper

People often say to me, “Why is your LEO column so long? I could read 50 tweets in that kind of time!” And others say, “‘Summary of My Yadda’ is published in a newspaper? OMG LOL ROFLMFAOPIMP!” (The latter string of initials is shorthand for “I don’t know how to express myself very well using the English language.”)

Both questions are reasonable. These days, newspapers are mostly used to shelter the homeless and provide TV trivia to people who don’t know how to use Google. However, a growing number of young trendsetters are finding out that reading 750 contiguous words isn’t as hard as it sounds. And newspapers are interactive in ways computers and phones are not. For instance, if you read this in print, you could conveniently take out a Sharpie and draw stab marks all over my face. Despite all of Mr. Steve Jobs’ fancy-pants technical acumen, try doing that on a phone and you’ll have a very messy cleanup job indeed!

Here’s a surprising fact: A recent study showed that 99.6 percent of all information on blogs and cable television originates as responsible newspaper reporting before it gets converted to “content” by “new media” outlets. And with a little patience, perseverance and urine, you too can be OMG LOL ROFLMFAOPIMPing at some of the things you’ll read in newspapers. But how on earth do you read one? Here’s how:

Before you can read a newspaper, you’ll have to get your hands on one. Many papers like LEO Weekly can be found absolutely free in bars, coffee shops, restaurants and brothels, where hipster iconoclasts use them to openly flaunt their superior attention spans, which are known to attract the opposite sex (momentarily, until they get a text).

Other, more hifalutin newspapers like The Courier-Journal and The New York Times can be purchased in stores or from sidewalk vending machines. (For instructions on using the latter, please refer to my April 2006 column, “Ways to use coins.”) If you find that you enjoy reading newspapers, you can even choose to have them delivered daily to your home by delivery boys (and by “delivery boys” I mean middle-aged immigrant women driving severely dented Hyundais).

Once you obtain a newspaper, take a few moments to clear your mind. Turn off your phone, your computer and your television and get in a comfortable reading position. If that last sentence prompted you to check your Facebook while watching a marathon of “CSI” episodes and it’s now six hours later, don’t despair. You came back, and that’s the main thing. Refocus your attention and begin again.

Take a few deep breaths and try to open your journalism chakra. Keep your back straight, because reading a newspaper for even a short while causes many people to end up in the fetal position. Some believe this is because newspapers have some seriously fucked-up shit in them.

Now, begin browsing for a story that might interest you. Don’t be distracted by how organized the newspaper is. While the hyper-organized layout of a newspaper might seem like the anal-retentive ravings of an obsessive/compulsive lunatic, there is a method to this madness. By organizing stories in logical sections, readers can tell at a glance which ones to immediately toss in the recycle bin, e.g., “Business.” (This is not a foolproof method, however, because stories from a specialty section can also become top news. For instance, on some days, every single local story in The Courier-Journal is about sports, no matter which section it appears in.)

When you find a story that sounds interesting, begin reading. Many people who are new to newspapers find that their minds wander after the first paragraph or two. Don’t worry; this is normal. To get your concentration back, try waving a brightly colored object in your peripheral vision to simulate a popup ad or incoming text message. Another helpful tip: Start with the paper at your knees and slowly move it higher to simulate scrolling or move it right to left to simulate a news crawl.

While reading a newspaper, you might find its reasonable, well-balanced, fact-checked and grammatical copy disconcerting. At first, you might need to stop reading and watch a few minutes of reality TV or read some tweets to keep news vertigo at bay. But keep trying, and soon you’ll be reading an entire 750-word column without stopping once to update your Tumblr. OMG LOL ROFLMAOPIMP, you did it!