Though my morning commutes have changed over the years — from the F train to Metro-North to my walk upstairs to the home office — the morning routine has pretty much stayed the same. Every weekday starts with a cup of strong storebought coffee (medium, milk, half-sugar) and the newspaper. The paper newspaper. I have an online subscription to the New York Times, and get news from a hundred different sources via Facebook and twitter, or from NPR depending on my driving duties, but for the most part, the day starts with page A1. For those of you kids out there who think I’m referring to steak sauce, please see me after class.
Kids today! At my last job, I remember explaining to a 20-something assistant where you find the Op-Ed page of the New York Times.
“It’s in the same place every day?” She asked.
“Every single day,” I said, my heart dying a little.
I realize how old I sound, and yet, I worry about the overwhelming news landscape for my own kids. I don’t worry about them getting enough news — Lord knows there are enough sources out there — it’s more that I’d like to figure out a way for them to engage with the world in a regular, meaningful way, to understand their place in it as much as possible. They’re 11 and just about 13 — old enough to know that life is not all soccer victories and selfies, that not everything can be reduced to a hashtag on instagram.
Dinner can play a role in this, naturally. Though we’re certainly not the Kennedy family — whose kitchen table was known more as a forum for debating current events than it was for debuting a braised chicken dish — we usually end up using the only eyeball-to-eyeball block of time we have all day to talk about what’s going on in the world beyond the kitchen table. Last week, though, something funny happened. Phoebe, who is known in our house as “the dreamer,” triumphantly brought up something she had just read in the news — a story about how “spacing out” was a necessary part of the creative process.
“Hey I read that,” I said. “Or I think I heard it on NPR.” (I had, it was part of the Bored and Brilliant challenge they’re running on New Tech City.) “Where did you read that?”
I forgot that I had signed Phoebe up for Facebook. Her track coach uses it to disseminate all the scheduling information, and I told her she could follow a few other feeds — the Times, NPR, her twin crushes Jimmy Fallon and Allie Brosh — but not friends just yet. (She has instagram for that.) Turns out, Facebook is a pretty amazing news source when you don’t have to sift through pictures of your friends’ cat vomit. Phoebe told me she always checks it in the morning for track updates and ends up reading something else from the feed.
And it turns out that Abby has started establishing her own little routine. She watches CNN Student News every day — sometimes in school, sometimes at home. It’s a ten-minute update, hosted by a guy named Carl Azuz, who strikes just the right balance between Brian Williams and your favorite uncle, unafraid to confront topics like Boko Haram and Immigration, but smart enough about his audience to include a bit about the dog that takes a bus to the park everyday by himself. This morning, we watched a segment recapping last night’s State of the Union, and Abby said “See? Isn’t that great?”
Yes! How do you like that? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they’re on the way to starting their own news routines. I really hope it sticks.
Photo from Scientific American.