Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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9/7/17: how do YOU read a newspaper?

Since I've been back from Tanzania I've been reading 'The Times' most days (except Sundays, got to draw the line somewhere).  By buying vouchers in advance I get a substantial reduction on the price compared to buying the paper in cash each day.

(Parenthetical thought: so I currently have vouchers going up to 12th August.  I have no idea what the news will be that day, could be a major world changing event or small developments on existing stories, but I can be confident that 'The Times' will be produced that day and I've already paid for my copy.  I seem to remember hearing that in the early days of radio and television broadcasts, the newscaster would sometimes say, "There has been no news today, so instead we'll play you some music."  Isn't that great?  Difficult to imagine that happening now....  End of parenthetical thought)

But I'm aware that 'reading a newspaper' is an expression, other examples being 'shopping' and 'swimming', which mean very different things to different people.  So, does shopping mean nipping in to get the newspaper, weekly groceries, or browsing for a major purchase eg. a piece of furniture?  If buying clothes, have you already decided what you want or do you like to look at lots of different choices?  All of these come under the heading of 'shopping' but are, I suggest, very different activities.  And swimming may mean splashing around with friends or serious lane swimming - albeit that this may be at a slow speed.

Coming back to newspapers, there is, realistically, far too much in each paper for anybody to read all of the text included, only then to start again the following ay.  So let me ask a slightly different question: where do you start?  John Mortimer's fictional lawyer Horace Rumpole started with the obituaries to see which of his friends - or enemies in the case of most judges - had died.  Maybe for you it's the sports?  Business pages? Letters?  Or do you just go to the front page and continue from there?

For me, reading the newspaper normally means starting with the puzzles - which is one of the reasons I go for 'The Times', I like the selection there.  I also like the variety of viewpoints in the letters, by the way.  If I'm not careful that's a good couple of hours solving all of the numerical puzzles, I particularly like the Killer Sudoku, and also the Codeword and a few others.  And then I go to the news.  On a few busy days I've got to tomorrow only then to realise that I've not read the news, then to realise there's another paper out.  Time to bite the bullet and not to get stressed about the newsprint I've paid for but not actually read.  I virtually never read the sports pages or business pages, so that's a whole lot of paper which goes straight into the recycle bin.  I read obituaries of people I've heard of and occasionally people I haven't - the latter often with a tinge of sadness that I'm only learning about them after they've already passed away.

But there is another issue I'd like to raise.  I received an email a few weeks back from a former colleague, in part expressing concern about the political situation in Venezuela.  Having read the email I went to the Internet to find out more, highly unstable situation, huge inflation rate and many civilians at risk in a country which could potentially be very prosperous.  But why, I found myself thinking, given that I read the newspaper fairly assiduously, and also get news bulletins on the radio and TV, have I not heard about this before?

A number of answers here, I think.  Here in the UK we've had a fair bit of domestic news to occupy us over the last few weeks - General Election, Grenfell Tower and Brexit to name but three items.  The UK is many miles away from Venezuela and there is no colonial past, two reasons for not registering highly in our news bulletins.  And it's a country I have no direct connection with myself, so I might well read a story about Tanzania or other East African country, also Jamaica, Indonesia and Peru from more distant contact, but gloss over other stories.  And there are a lot of countries in the world, any one person cannot reasonably keep up with all of them.  But against that, people are undergoing huge suffering and we are hearing very little about it - I can only hope that the Spanish speaking world is taking more of an interest in Venezuela than we are here in the UK.

Some years ago I had reason to sit in on a session for beginning PE teachers in which the question was raised: what does it mean for a person to be physically educated?  Equivalently, what is it that we want youngsters to have learnt from their PE lessons at school now to take them through to adult life?  This is an interest area outside of my direct expertise, albeit I have a few suggestions to make.

Equivalently, what does it mean for a person to be well informed about world affairs?  We cannot reasonably know everything about everything, how much is enough?  Where oppressed people could really benefit from attention from the world media, how can we be sure that we're hearing about it?

Hope these thoughts this week aren't too disjointed, would be very interested to know what you think.  And coming back to my opening point: how do YOU read a newspaper?  Which section do YOU go for first?

2 Comments to 9/7/17: how do YOU read a newspaper?:

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Leonard Wambiya on 10 July 2017 11:15
Good write up. For me, I look first for information relevant to my line of work "Elimu Kwanza" i.e. Education first for this is my line of work. My favourite section which I must not miss is reading the "thoughts" of the Trumps, Dutertes and Mugabes of our world today - international news segment. Reason, the global nature of our world and the changing style of world leadership today
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Geoff on 11 July 2017 01:52
Thank you, Leonard. In fact here in the UK we have a dedicated newspaper for education, 'The Times Educational Supplement', which comes out every Friday, so that's where I mostly get education news from for this country. Agree that it's important to know what major world leaders are thinking. Trust you're well and thank you for contributing, Geoff

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