Don Rogers: The key to happiness is turning off the TV and reading the Vail Daily | VailDaily.com
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Don Rogers: The key to happiness is turning off the TV and reading the Vail Daily

Don Rogers
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

The secret to happiness? Turn off the TV. Read the paper.

I saw learned this on The New York Times’ Web site the other day. (Does that count as reading a newspaper?)

The news certainly made me happier.

No wonder we’re the “Happy Valley.” We all read the paper. That’s more than nine out of every 10 of us reading the Vail Daily, according to our and others’ surveys. It’s amazing, and it makes my job the best in journalism, hands down.

Our readership transcends whether we have daily competition at any given moment, how many TV stations cram into the valley, the advent of everyone who sets up their own Web site.

For whatever reason, we read the paper like almost no other community in the country.

And not coincidentally, as it turns out, I find the people here seem happier than most, too. I just never made the connection with newspaper reading.

Silly me. I figured it was the skiing, the beauty of our surroundings, our shared escape from normal America that accounted for the extra brightness in the eye, that bounce in our step.

But this makes sense. You see, people who read newspapers tend to be more engaged in their communities. Or put perhaps more accurately, people who are more engaged in their communities tend to read the paper more.

The paper is not the root, but a consequence of the engaged life. Reading the paper is an active thing. You flip the pages, looking, whether or not you are fully aware of this. If you are active in the community in some way, the chances are very good you will find people you know in the pages. There’s a reward beyond the coverage itself. You know these folks.

A wheel turns that makes you a little more interested, more engaged, more likely to read the paper again tomorrow.

That’s pretty much why the local papers that focus squarely on their communities fare better than their big city brethren and smaller cousins who think they can get away with running lean on local coverage.

Local coverage is expensive, after all, and an easy target for operations aiming for cheap. But then, those papers ultimately aren’t read very widely, even cheap ads become too expensive with no return on the investment (since few are reading), and you might as well just stick with TV if the “local” paper isn’t really local.

So what is it about TV that sours us? We crave it, after all. If most of us read a paper, all of us watch TV. We count our newspaper reading by the minute and TV viewing by the hour. Why wouldn’t we be all the happier the more we watch?

The report says happy people do watch TV, too. Just not as much as unhappy people. Heavy TV watchers interact less with others, are less engaged with real life. They know fewer people, do less outside of work, and so it goes. The wheel rolls in reverse.

Makes sense to me, a newspaper editor. Of course I’d think so.

This also suggests that TV viewing is more a marker of unhappiness than a root of it. It’s not necessarily the TV viewing itself, but the lack of engagement with your community or activeness in your life that saps your satisfaction.

“We looked at eight to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more ” visiting others, going to church, all those things ” were more happy,” a co-author of the study, University of Maryland sociology professor John Robinson, told the Times. “TV was the one activity that showed a negative relationship. Unhappy people did it more, and happy people did it less.”

The study appeared in the journal Social Indicators Research’s December issue. It was based on the “responses of 45,000 Americans collected over 35 years by the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, and on published ‘time diary’ studies recording the daily activities of participants,” the Times reported.

There’s something else, though, that newspaper people can only wish happened in their ink-and-paper medium. TV doesn’t just inform; it mesmerizes. It’s highly addictive, actually. You know this. But like other addictions, it saps life from those who indulge too much.

“TV doesn’t really seem to satisfy people over the long haul the way that social involvement or reading a newspaper does,” Robinson said in a press release from the University of Maryland. “It’s more passive and may provide escape ” especially when the news is as depressing as the economy itself. The data suggest to us that the TV habit may offer short-run pleasure at the expense of long-term malaise.”

OK, so I have another use for the timeless, humble newspaper: It’s part of rehab for the life turned sour. If you have found yourself losing too much of your life to TV, turn it off. Pick up the paper. I promise you it will blunt those DT’s.

And it might even help you have a life again.

Don Rogers is the editor and associate publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at 748-2920 or drogers@vaildaily.com.


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