Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Sep 19th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Succulent Taste of Slow Reading

tom_honig_sHave you ever read something that made so much sense that you slap your hand immediately and directly to your forehead?

“Why didn’t I think of that?”

Such was my reaction to a column by a statistics expert no less, one Trevor Butterworth, who wrote a column last week in Forbes Magazine calling on the news media to adopt a kind of “slow food” philosophy as espoused by the likes of Alice Waters and her restaurant “Chez Panisse.”

The column brought to mind one particular Sunday afternoon about 15 years ago at the late, lamented Chez Renée restaurant in Aptos. Jack and Renée Chyle operated this distinctive restaurant, and offered a “Slow Food Sunday” that brought  back memories of those long family Sunday afternoon dinners. On that particular Sunday, my family members sat for hours, enjoying the food, conversation and the fantastic October weather. Course after course arrived, perfectly succulent, while conversation just ambled along around the table.

Don’t deduce from this that I’m any sort of foodie at all; occasionally I can be found in a line of cars outside Dairy Queen.

But the point is that you don’t eat at Dairy Queen every day. And that brings the conversation back to the “slow reading” movement. The question is not necessarily the “slow reading” of, say, “War and Peace,” but maybe in-depth news coverage that takes time to digest.

The stats expert, Butterworth, argues that “The idea of consuming less, but better, media of a ‘slow word’ or ‘slow media’ movement is a strategy journalism should adopt.”

My thoughts go directly to an imagined conversation with the accountants here, and how I’d answer their inevitable question: “Where’s the revenue?”

Maybe there is some revenue here. Chez Panisse – or the late Chez Renee – didn’t consider themselves competitors to McDonald’s. And in fact, it’s possible that the same person who downs a McMuffin might be the same person who also takes the time on a nice Sunday afternoon to settle in for a culinary treat.

Actually, there still are examples of contextual journalism. You get in-depth coverage in The Economist, for example. The New Yorker can also make the news consumer think.

The problem is that these publications are national in nature, and they’re tackling Big Stories like health care, financial ruin and terrorism. Can the “slow media” movement move down the food chain to places like Santa Cruz?

There’s no reason why not, except that “slow news,” like “slow food” takes more time, more experience and probably more knowledge. Reporters and editors at daily newspapers talk about “feeding the beast,” that demand for quick and dirty stories that fill the space but, let’s face it, don’t leave the reader satisfied.

Here’s where the food analogy is even stronger: I’m not talking about those complex, dense, arcane stories about bauxite or government finance. These stories are as difficult to digest as whole grain cheesecake with asparagus spears. An important, complete and entertaining article is as difficult to put together as a slow-cooked Sunday feast.

It can be done. Writer Dave Eggers put together a remarkable newspaper-style publication called San Francisco Panorama. It looked like a newspaper and it felt like a newspaper, but it really was something different. It was, in effect, a slow-cooked publication that featured news, sports, travel and a variety of features. It was fun and easy to read—without boring stories about bauxite futures.

“Fast media” is a lot like fast food. It has its place. We all want to know about storms and crimes and strikes and traffic jams. Learning about those things on our mobile phones has been a great advance.

Unfortunately, what has also accompanied “fast media” is quick opinionating, the kind we get every night on cable news. We start believing the first thing out of anyone’s mouth and we don’t have the time or energy to challenge any of the information coming at us online, on television or on our phones.

The party line at media companies is that news consumers expect speed. Nothing is as stale, they say, as old news. That’s why stories appear and then disappear so quickly.

Just maybe, however, the attention span of news consumers isn’t always so short. Just maybe there is a market for the kinds of journalism that can’t be tweeted or summed up in a 13-second soundbite.

If there is such a market, there just might be a journalistic Alice Waters who will find it.
Contact Tom Honig at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Feeding Frenzy

Culinary journey ‘The Trip to Italy’ isn’t the foodie film you’d expect 

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.