Friday, December 22, 2017

The Decline of a Completist

"Completist" is a term used by the new publisher of the NYTimes in his interview with the editor of the New Yorker.  It means someone who has to read everything in the paper.

I used to be a completist.  Back on the farm we got the Binghamton Press delivered in the mailbox.  But for really important things, like the first Soviet A-bomb test in 1949, we'd make a point of going to the Forks or Greene to pick up the Times (the stores might have 4 or 5 for sale).  I think, with the assurance of old age, that's what we did for the bomb test.  Probably the first time I read the Times, trying to understand the story.

Later we would get the Sunday Times to satisfy my sister's appetite for the news.  Finally when I got to college I could fully indulge my completist obsession.  After working breakfast at the dorm, I'd stop at Noyes Lodge overlooking Beebee Lake, pick up a Times and with a cup of coffee read the whole thing (assuming I didn't have an early class). 

I think it was both psychological and sociological--i.e., I was a farm boy trying to figure out the big world and gain status within it by knowing about everything.  So my reading life went.

But now I find I don't have the patience or interest to be a completist.  I've read too many stories of the ways people mistreat each other, too many stories of the hungry and the sick, too many stories. I still read the Times (and the Post) every day, but I skip over a lot of stories.  Such is life.

[Update: it's a good interview.  A bit of humor from it:
"D.R.: I’m giving you a very important opportunity here. I just saw the new Steven Spielberg movie, “The Post.” And I hope this doesn’t hurt, but this is about the Washington Post’s experience vis-a-vis the Pentagon Papers. Now, the Times is given credit for breaking the story, but I’m told that people at the New York Times are really annoyed with this movie.
A.G.S.: I wouldn’t say really annoyed.
D.R.: No, I mean, super annoyed at this movie.
A.G.S.: I think we’re all looking forward to the next Watergate movie. Focussing on the extraordinary reporting of the New York Times."

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