If a reporter’s story appears online, is the reporter really reporting?

There is a tiny percentage of Americans who feel about their Sunday New York Times the way Charlton Heston used to feel about his guns. Those people love nothing more than to spend a Sunday morning sipping coffee and getting their fingers ink-stained. I used to be that way. It was about as wonderful an experience as you can imagine. All that great writing. All that coffee. All that feeling of superiority over the vast percentage of the world who wasn’t as smart as I was for reading all these articles. All that caffeine.

Of course, I no longer read the Sunday morning New York Times that way. By late Saturday night, I’ve typically had headlines from the next morning’s Times — and a vast array of other dailies — delivered to me via an RSS-powered newsreader called NetNewsWire. It delivers headlines to both my computer and my iPhone and syncs the two, so that if I read a story on my iPhone, it won’t show up on my computer later. For the past week, I’ve also been using a new iPhone “app” provided free to me (advertisers pay for me to get it free) by the New York Times that delivers headlines, photos and full stories to my iPhone. (So does Bloomberg and other news organizations).

Since I now have my early Sunday mornings free to read stories from, potentially, hundreds of papers, I find another way to enjoy my coffee. But for the small slice of the total population who still luxuriate in the print New York Times Sunday morning experience, there is nothing more delightful that reading a long article about reading.

And so, the New York Times is running a series of articles, that’s right, a series exploring the topic of whether or not reading online is actually reading. The first article is titled (at least the online version is) Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? and is filled with “on-the-other-hands” — as in, “This expert says one thing, but on the other hand, this research says another.”

Of course, it makes no sense to me, as I’m reading the news story story online, so I already know the answer to the question, “RU really reading this?” It also makes no sense to me as I average reading about a book a week — using a Kindle — including literary novels I learn about reading the New York Times Review of Books online. Of course, it also makes no sense to me as I don’t need the New York Times to tell me: Reading is reading.

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