Becoming a News Consumer

by Andres Torres, Program Officer, Democracy

Growing up, my parents kept a newspaper basket – a collection of the week’s Chicago Tribunes, Readers, Onions, and the odd glossy magazine that landed at our house. The basket was intended to provide order and organization. Instead, it was seemingly always on the point of tipping over and flooding the living room with the week’s papers.

For as long as this basket existed, my charge was to tend to it.

When I was first entrusted with this responsibility, the task was easy. As a young child, when asked to toss anything that wasn’t important, it was simple to pick out the Tribune’s colorful Comics section and save the latest musings of respected thinkers like Charlie Brown, Calvin and Hobbes, and the like. Everything else I tossed.

With age, the task became increasingly difficult. Five minutes grew into a full afternoon spent sorting what I’d read from what I’d not-read and catching-up on all I’d missed. On the bright side, a chore became fun. The down side, perhaps just for my mother, was that a once-productive laborer became increasingly unreliable (and unavailable to perform other chores).

I’ve found myself reflecting on this experience as I consider how I became an avid news consumer, something I’d not much considered until joining McCormick’s Democracy Program and immersing myself in the Foundation’s work in journalism.

Learning about who consumes news, how they consume it, and with what degree of confidence, I think about how I was introduced to journalism and developed my appreciation for the stories the news tells. It started with my family's tradition of spending Sunday afternoons quietly swapping sections of the paper (about the only thing we did quietly) and my early responsibility managing our "archives." My admiration for it deepened with high school journalism classes and opportunities to write, edit, and design my school's paper. And it continues to deepen today as I engage as a subscriber, supporter, and consumer of news – in print, online, and in audio form.

My new role at McCormick is giving me a peek behind the curtain. Half a year into the job, I’m learning how stories are produced, packaged, and delivered, while asking the questions: news for whom and for how much longer? My hope is that, in collaboration with partners from across the country engaging with these questions, we’ll be able to come up with the answers: for all and forever.

In the meantime, I’ll keep asking and listening, and I look forward to sharing what I learn and hearing your thoughts.

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