No Papers, Wk 5: Sentenced to ‘Conversation Jail’, without Bail, after detail ‘fail’

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By Adam Vincenzini, Traditional Media

One of the by-products of working in PR is that you are (generally) a pretty good dinner party guest.

It has nothing to do with our sparkling manners (!), or our generosity (!!), but rather our almost limitless knowledge of news and current affairs.

Whenever a heated conversation kicks off around the table, not only will we get heavily involved (what, me, opinionated?), but we’ll often act like a human ‘Google’ – filling in the details of virtually any topic thanks to our religious-like media consumption during the week.

Now, when I embarked on my ‘newspaper-less’ experiment I didn’t think this would change all that much – after all, I still had unrestricted access to all the news I wanted via digital channels.

But, guess what? I got made out to look (especially) silly at dinner on Friday night…and here’s why…

The scene of the crime

I was out to dinner with some old friends – a couple of former PR colleagues and some friends of theirs I’d only met for the first time that night.

It was a fun night (I had the Salmon, which was very good), and being the guest from out of town, I got to do a lot of talking (which I hated…of course).

After bleeding the news of my ‘newspaper-less’ experiment dry, we got involved in some old-fashioned ’round the table’ dinner conversation…

The topic?

The English Footballer who cheated on his wife with the ex-girlfriend of one of his teammates.

Now being in town from London, a lover of Football, and former PR manager of the Australia cricket team, I assumed a pretty prominent role in this conversation.

“Adam, if you were managing PR for this player right now, what would you do?”

“You’re from London, what else can you tell us about the scandal?”

Ironically, and embarrassingly, I was actually the least knowledgeable person on the subject at the table that night.

It’s all in the detail…

There was a pretty obvious reason for this: I hadn’t been following it that closely.

And the catalyst for that, which only crystallized for me that night, was without newspapers in the mix, I’m increasingly only taking in ‘bite-sized’ chunks of news, as opposed to the details.

And it’s actually quite a big problem.

Now if you’re reading this you’ll probably be thinking that if I wanted to be up to speed on everything to do with the latest news, there’s nothing stopping me…it’s all there, just get online.

And, you’re right.

However, and this is the learning I took from the experiment this week: It is (a lot) easier to avoid news you don’t want to acknowledge / aren’t ‘that’ interested in when you’re not reading newspapers.

If you have a copy of a paper in your hand, news and analysis will ‘find’ you – sure you can skip a page, but given the choice between reading about a Footballer’s off-field indiscretions and a political topic I have limited passion for, my selection is pretty easy.

A learning?

So perhaps we’ve stumbled on something quite significant here?

I was under the impression that thanks to all the digital developments, news would ‘find me’ more easily and frequently, not less.

Or was I simply not that interested in that topic that other items ‘found me’ instead.

Who knows, perhaps we’ll discover more as the year continues.

No matter the answer, one thing is clear: I must actively do my homework on current affairs / events before dinner parties the remainder of this year, or I’ll end up having to make an awful lot of ‘meals for one.’

Do we rely on newspapers ‘too much’ to keep us informed about general news and current affairs?

Do you think taking newspapers out of your life would make you a less involved dinner party guest?

Feel free to leave a comment below.



  • Reply February 7, 2010

    Diane Meyer

    I have to say I am a bit of a “political junky” but that information gathering is more to satisfy my own knowledge rather than necessarily sharing it. Most political news I get from TV and radio. However, I have found it extremely valuable to keep up with local happenings, sports, events, business, etc. in more detail through newspapers because it is very helpful when not only conversing with friends but also with clients. I read everyting so that when I am with clients I at least have a smattering of information so that I can contribute to a conversation. I have found it very important in business.

  • Reply February 9, 2010

    heather white-laird

    Hi Adam, I actually stopped reading newspapers a long time ago and this from someone who actually worked in publishing for many years. Why? Because I’m online all day anyway, I was never a fan of black all over my hands, glad to save some trees and I didn’t necessarily trust one source (The NY Times’ motto is “All the News that’s Fit to Print”–who decides what’s fit and what about the rest of Unfit News”?) You’re right that you end up having a more targeted information stream and that is actually a blessing considering how much useless info is available. My mantra now is I know what I’m interested in (anything digital, innovative, brilliant, social, mobile…I could go on) and I try to absorb as much of that as possible. The rest…I assume and I find it’s true..I’ll find out about if I need to know it. There are certainly worse things than not knowing about a sports star’s affairs. In the meantime, I’m fairly up to date on the information I find crucial to my passions.

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