18 July 2008

Spilling the Beans

Sometimes, to get the real deal, you’ve got to go the extra mile.
I just made myself a cup of coffee. Now, a typical cup of office coffee comes from a machine that makes a pot using a pre-determined amount of coffee and water. The only thing a coffee drinker has to do is load the thing, press a button, and five minutes later, there will be coffee. As simple as this is, you’d be amazed how people can screw it up.
Office coffee is all about convenience. Unfortunately, office coffee tastes like crap. Whatever flavor the beans had when they were picked and ground has been smashed out the them by the packaging process. They are so dry when we get them that none of the natural oils even seem present in the beans.
As a fan of office coffee, I don’t stand for this. When I make a cup of coffee, I don’t screw around. First, I don’t use the ground beans if I can help it; I’ll grind my own, right in the office, with a little grinder I have. Second, I won’t bother using the industrial machine that plops out the same pot over and over again with the push of a button. I’ll use a French Press, which has the potential to A.) make amazing coffee or B.) make the worst coffee you’ve ever tasted. There’s more of a human touch in the entire process. Is it a lot of work? Sure, but it is work it in the end, because I’m getting more of what makes the product good.
I think this process can serve as a metaphor for what’s going on in the news and newspaper industry. As a coffee junkie, I don’t limit myself to what kind of coffee I drink. I take chances. I take in information from media outlets the same way. Every day, I’ll spend at least a few minutes looking at CNN, FOX News, Free Republic, the Nation, Al Jazeera, the Daily Mail, Der Spiegel, the Weekly Standard, the North Korean Central News Agency and the BBC. I don’t agree with all of what I read, but at least it is a rounded list. One of the reasons I think newspapers are having a tough time with things is that people aren’t taking the same amount of time they used to stay informed. Sure, you can go to a website (like Drudge Report or Huffington Post) or a TV website (like KARE11.com), but the whole idea of having a “one stop shop” for news is really something better suited to a commodity – like toilet paper.
My coffee ritual takes time. My media ritual takes time. In the end, however, the flavors of both are always interesting, and I am glad I took the time to grind my own beans and so my own legwork, so that way, I’ve got more control over what goes into my palette and into my brain.

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