Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New smart phone is changing how I gather information

Since I was in my teens, I have enjoyed reading newspapers.

One of my jobs during high school was at the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper, Syracuse’s morning daily.

I was a copyboy, probably the low man on the totem pole at a newspaper. One of our duties was to get coffee for the editors, but it was a great experience.

The large, brightly lit newsroom just outside the tiny, dimly lit room in which we worked was filled with bright, energetic people. It seemed as if the air that surrounded these busy, smart people in the newsroom was charged with electricity.

I developed a taste for reading the Sunday New York Times, and, combined with reading dozens of books over the next several years as I completed high school and went to college, I developed a deep affection for good writing.

When I moved to Michigan, I brought with me the affection for reading good writing and the daily pleasure of a morning newspaper over coffee, and subscribed to the Detroit Free Press for many years.

And I continued to go out each Sunday morning to get a copy of the Times. At times, I would have to travel as far as Canton, and pay $4 or $5 for the privilege. The current price for a copy of the Sunday Times is $6.

In the last decade or two, newspapers across the country began to struggle as the world changed around them. The Free Press cut back its home delivery to three days each week, on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. It wasn’t the same, and when I was able to resume daily home delivery I jumped at the chance.

But then, a few weeks ago, I got a smart phone, and things really began to change.

I had been thinking about a smart phone for the last two or three years. My children had long since begun to use them, and I was increasingly surrounded by them at work and in daily life.

I thought, it would make me more productive. That thought process, combined with a generous gift card from my family for my birthday, pushed me over the edge. I now gather news using the phone, from any of a plethora of news and opinion websites. I think that there’s a bit less depth in my news gathering, but it is satisfying, and I’ve learned more about how to substitute Internet news resources for the information formerly provided by the Free Press.

USA Today, for example, has an Internet site that enables you to find out what football games are being played that weekend, when and on what television channel. It was one of the things I most looked forward to with the Free Press each Wednesday.

And if I want to keep up with Notre Dame football (admittedly an alloyed blessing, after the loss to USF), I’ve bookmarked a Google search on “Notre Dame football,” and can read several stories about the Irish each day, published in newspapers or magazines across the country.

Ironically, the new phone has enabled better, more timely information for an interest sometimes associated with older people – information about the weather forecast.

I now have at my fingertips instant information about the weather forecast, and can find information by the hour if needs be – when will it begin raining later today, for example?

After the excitement over the new, admittedly amazing technology quells a bit, I hope that I will revert to a hybrid way of gathering info, in which print and digital information sources combine to give me the best of both worlds.

But for now, having a world of continually updated information at my fingertips is a heady, exciting experience. It’s truly an amazing thing.

Gerald LaVaute is a staff writer for Heritage Newspapers. He can be reached at or call 1-734-429-7380. Check out our staff blog at


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