How do you read the paper? Are you a skimmer or scanner?
Watching people the newspaper here in the airport on the way out of town once again shows me that it takes all types to make the world spin. Some read it cover to cover; every headline, every word. Some are less conscientious. What type are you?
Of these less thorough individuals, I’ve split them into the scanners, skimmers, and section specific scholars.
In the scanners category you have those who look only at the pictures and perhaps the accompanying captions. I assume the logic behind scanning is that if the story is important enough, the editor will accord it a photo. (Though in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, that is often not the case.) Another subset of scanners follow only the headlines. There aren’t a lot of photos, so best to hope the headlines will cover all the salient news.
Then there are the skimmers: they read the headline, and the first sentence or two, and move on. Again the assumption is either that the most important details will be in the first two sentences, and / or if they aren’t interested after the first two sentences they won’t read on.
Becoming progressively more thorough are the section specific scholars who are scanners or skimmers throughout the paper until they get to their section of interest. Then they become the focused, conscientious, read-every-word person. The sports fan pours over stats, trades, player updates, team standings and more. Similarly, the financial minds, focus on the business pages exclusively, looking for an edge to understanding the markets. Both seem keen on retaining and quoting back information, or improving picks for fantasy football or their day-trades.
The puzzlers go straight to the entertainment section, hoping to match wits and prevail over the latest crossword, word search, or Sudoku puzzles. Others are only interested in their horoscopes or the latest celebrity gossip on who married whom and what designer gown they wore. Which brings me to the television updates in the paper. Who knew we would get to a point where not only could reality television shows exist, but that a newspaper would allow for a whole column to update us on what happened on television.
Was I so focused on reading the Saturday comics as a kid that I never stopped to see if there was a section updating me on what I may have missed on All in the Family or Gilligan’s Island?
(I have to pause and relish the thought for a moment that the writer of either of those updates would have been able to print nearly the same words each week. “Archie gets angry about something, says something racist or politically incorrect, his wife replies ‘Oh Arrrrrchieeeee’ says something placating in an annoying voice, and Archie has a beer in his reclining chair.” Alternatively, “an opportunity for escape off the island presents itself, but Gilligan botches it, the Skipper hits him with his hat, and Ginger wears another amazing dress which she packed for a three-hour tour.”)
Back to the newspaper readers, I have missed mentioning the readers who focus on the obituaries.
Of course there are also those subscribers who are more interested in the flyers, be it for deals on groceries or DIY projects.
As I typed that, I wrote fliers first. Which brings me to a yet undefined category of extremely conscientious readers those who turn every article into a form of entertainment. Armchair editors find every spelling mistake and wrongfully used homophone. Clearly this is more interesting than Sudoku to them, and luckily the result is to me as well. I enjoy being reminded that neigh-sayers would be speaking to horses. Most recently it was pointed out to me that it should have dawned on both my editor and I, that I’d donned the wrong d-word in my last column.
Me, I’m probably one of those section specific readers, most interested by local news and opinions (and grocery flyers). Otherwise I find myself skimming the national and international news and only scanning the entertainment and sports sections. The older I get, I’m also becoming a scanner of the obituaries, hoping none of my friends’ names will appear.
Did I miss a category for you?
Regardless, it’s not how one reads the paper that’s important, it’s that one reads the paper. (Now give yourself a pat on the back).