The Weekend Renaissance Man

September 14, 2008

Sometimes, when I’m struggling under the weight of the weekend paper on the way back from the corner store, I wonder about the person who can comfortably sit down and read the whole thing.  Surely this person doesn’t have children, or indeed, a life at all: no social commitments, no laundry to do, no run to take – just hours on end to plow through the 23 sections and 4 inserts.   But even if this imaginary person did have the actual time to read the weekend paper in its entirety, would he or she understand it?

Take my Saturday edition for example, which I am of course still reading today. The reader is asked to be equally versed in the macroeconomics of inflation and the pricing of international oil, the properties of new world wines and the writings of Evelyn Waugh (a man, by the way, as I learned just today.  Call me ignorant if you must) to get through just three articles in three different sections.  The breadth of knowledge and expertise across a huge number of disciplines required to read the weekend paper intelligently is completely out of step with the way most of us in the global economy work: as highly specialised experts focusing on a narrow problem or issue, working a huge number of hours each day, making it difficult to manage an active development of more than about two outside interests.  Only the true renaissance man could manage to easily switch between the articles contained in the literary review and the financial section without bating an eye.

Of course, you might point out that the objective is not to read every section, but to cater to every interest, which becomes increasingly difficult when newspapers are battling for the attention of readers against a range of blogs, online news sources and other media.  But the effect is to make me feel guilty for routinely throwing away 8 sections, and for reading the articles in the remaining sections with a nagging feeling of inadequacy about the depth of my understanding of architectural design, or whatever else happens to be featured.

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2 Responses to “The Weekend Renaissance Man”

  1. Stuart said

    I’d bet my house (not that I own one, and not that it would be worth anything if I did) that that’s the FT Weekend you bought (from the corner shop). I cannot think that anyone else does both wine and architecture.

    I rather like our balkanised newspapers. I can happily throw the sport section into the recycle bin and not give it a second thought… and anything about homes, gardens, cars, and so on, right up to the point where I only have the news section. Then, of course, it dawns on me that I have just paid £2 for the kind of basic newspaper (without its many sections) I usually pay much less for during the week. Then I feel silly.

  2. LMP said

    Indeed. I have to say that I feel equally overwhelmed by the Saturday Guardian though!

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