Gracious Gratitude
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Gracious Gratitude

Day 194

Ahhhh … Sunday. If you know me even a little, you know that it’s my favorite day of the week. It’s not so much about the day of rest thing as it is about luxuriating in one of my most favorite things … reading the Sunday edition of The New York Times … in print.

Like an actual newspaper. You know, the kind that shows up wrapped in a rubber band, or slipped into a narrow plastic bag and tossed in the early morning hours ker-thump against your front door?

Well, for a few reasons my delivery person doesn’t get it quite that far up the driveway, but you get the idea.

My Sunday morning ritual is sacred to me … it’s about saturating myself in topics that interest me, and topics that don’t. It’s about meandering through the pages, led from one story to another by the cadence of copy editors whose 30,000 foot view of the news landscape resulted in the orchestration of articles that make it into print.

When I was at Northwestern, one of my favorite classes was layout and design. Back in those days it was done by hand. It was just on the cusp of the days when computers would take over, but at the time getting all the stories into the paper was truly an art form. From the editorial meetings in which the team (reporters, editors, photographers, art and design) debated and discussed what stories they’d relate for the paper. Once gathered, the discussion turned to what would go where, how it would lay out and the journey on which the team would be taking the reader. Positioning articles for impact, juxtapositions to photos and other stories, gracefully crafting headlines that tugged the eye and teased the brain. In a time not too long ago, there were no computers to measure the copy and do the design. Instead, painstaking work with x-acto knives, glue and drafting boards, as it was decided which stories would “jump” and how that would work.

All too often people think of the newspaper as merely about the reporters who gather the news. That’s just the start of the story. The team behind crafting a daily newspaper requires knowledge not just of a single story but the entire tapestry being woven together. It’s about placement of those stories. It’s about the layout and design. It’s about pulling in the reader, guiding them through the narratives.

At least that’s how it used to be.

I can’t tell you how it is in a newsroom today. It’s been a long time since I was in one. It’s no secret that corporate interests rule the roost at most publications today. While editorial teams writhe against the chafing fetters of bureaucratic bosses, being forced to cave in on more occasions than not, there are still some havens where true Journalism (note the capital J) still exists.

Back in the day (not all that long ago, actually), while every publication had some leaning true Journalists did their part to gather data and then present it with as unbiased a filter as possible. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some bias. I believe it’s constitutionally impossible for most humans not to have some bias or another. Some lean left. Some lean right. And even those in the middle list a touch to one side or another. When I used to pick up the Wall Street Journal I knew from the get go that I was in for a more conservative view. I didn’t care. The reporting was superb. The writing solid. Despite a bias driven by being human, they did real Journalism. Fact-based. When Rupert Murdoch bought the paper, I canceled my subscription. Glances at the paper in years since show me that I chose wisely. While some individual keep up a good front for the most part a one august and truly reliable publication feels more like a conservative megaphone mixed with a tabloid to me.

But I digress.

My point isn’t actually to analyze the downward spiral of media and true Journalism. Though that’s probably worthwhile for another day. Today is about the joy that is reveling in a print newspaper, something that falls flat and two dimensional — in a literal and figurative sense — when consumed online.

No doubt the digital platform has huge value. For example, going online to The New York Times one has the capability of viewing video, virtual reality tours that put you literally IN to a story, and more broad offerings of photo galleries.

The digital version also tends to change headlines — watering down crisply worded and artfully structured versions from print, done in order to gain clicks and views. The drive for traffic diluting the power of words. Oftentimes great articles that give value and depth to trends and topics don’t even appear online, meaning that digital consumers miss out on the whole story. Finally there’s the adventure of discovery. If I’m consuming an online version, it’s likely I’ll merely hit top headlines, “most viewed” articles and probably only the sections that interest me, foregoing the others entirely.

Getting the print edition means that all sections are presented to me. Even though I have my own process and order in which I consume the paper, and sometimes skip some sections altogether, the very act of dissembling the paper means that I pass by those sections. On more than one occasion the dismantling and reordering process has led me to pause and dive into one of these sections, being exposed to content that otherwise I’d have missed entirely.

Then there are days when special sections are published — there was one for the total eclipse in August, there was another several years ago (a Sports section) when there was a horse that looked like it might actually win the Triple Crown. Today it was a section about Louisiana, and the encroachment of the sea. These sections take full advantage of the broadsheet format, wide photos, long form writing and detailed graphics. In today’s paper there also was a superb ad, focusing on the power of children’s voices in the aftermath of the Parkland, FL shooting.

I realize that today’s mental meanderings did not return to the topics of last week. Truth is, I needed another day’s rest. There was plenty in the paper today to spark more ideas … and I took another listen to Krista Tippett’s “On Being” episode with Brene Brown … my brain is afire with that too. So stay tuned my friends. More to come.

Now I’m going to go finish the last few sections of the paper with a cup of tea before bed.

And then there were three. Well, kind of. More like two and a half. The morning sun shone down on the remains of the Floral Family. One of the Twins is now finally also one, with the other having lost some ballast overnight. The remaining Cousin has faded and even Junior is nearly done — guess he didn’t want to hang around without the rest of his family. Guessing just a few more days for these friends.

Today’s Gracious Gratitude. Today I am grateful for:

  • Another lengthy, luxurious night of sleep
  • That today my dogs actually let me sleep in
  • Showing up to help a friend and in doing so healing an inner wound of my own
  • Having a great workout
  • A peaceful afternoon walk in the warm sun with my dogs
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • Fresh sheets on my bed
  • Completing a major “to do” that I said I would get done this weekend

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There are studies that show a simple practice of gratitude awareness can be a real game changer for productivity.

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Cathy Brooks

Cathy Brooks

Raconteur and Silicon Valley expat who’s gone to the dogs … literally. Read more here https://www.linkedin.com/public-profile/in/cathybrooks

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