I first got news of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., via an alert on my watch. Even though I had turned off news notifications months ago, the biggest news still somehow finds a way to slip through.
But for much of the next 24 hours after that alert, I heard almost nothing about the shooting.
There was a lot I was glad to miss. For instance, I didn’t see the false claims— possibly amplified by propaganda bots — that the killer was a leftist, an anarchist, a member of ISIS and perhaps just one of multiple shooters. I missed the Fox News report tying him to Syrian resistance groups even before his name had been released. I also didn’t see the claim circulated by many news outlets (including The New York Times) as well as by Senator Bernie Sanders and other liberals on Twitter that the massacre had been the 18th school shooting of the year, which wasn’t true.
Instead, the day after the shooting, a friendly person I’ve never met dropped off three newspapers at my front door. That morning, I spent maybe 40 minutes poring over the horror of the shooting and a million other things the newspapers had to tell me.
Not only had I spent less time with the story than if I had followed along as it unfolded online, I was better informed, too. Because I had avoided the innocent mistakes — and the more malicious misdirection — that had pervaded the first hours after the shooting, my first experience of the news was an accurate account of the actual events of the day.
This has been my life for nearly two months. In January, after the breaking-newsiest year in recent memory, I decided to travel back in time. I turned off my digital news notifications, unplugged from Twitter and other social networks, and subscribed to home delivery of three print newspapers — The Times, The Wall Street Journal and my local paper, The San Francisco Chronicle — plus a weekly newsmagazine, The Economist.