People just don’t seem to read much anymore. As time goes on, they’re reading less and less. And that’s a sad situation.

Whether they just don’t like to, or they feel they just don’t have the time, many Americans read very little — newspapers, magazines, or anything.

According to a survey by the NPD Group, Inc., a consumer research company, in 1992-93, 36% of men in this country from the ages of 18 to 34 spent at least 30 minutes a day reading any kind of material. In 1998-99, only 22% of that same age bracket spent 30 minutes a day reading anything.

Television is our medium of choice and it starts at a young age.

According to Forrester Research, Inc., 64% of North American teenagers now have TV sets in their rooms — almost two-thirds. Kids grow up with TV as an integral part of their everyday lives. So passive watching is the norm; active reading is not.

My generation was the first to grow up with TV and each decade we’ve been embracing it more and more.

Besides daily entertainment, TV also dominates as our primary news source. Brill’s Content, a media criticism magazine, has published a poll reporting that 49.5% of Americans get most of their news from television. Newspapers are a distant second at 25.5%. Thus, TV surpasses newspapers by almost two to one.

So what's news?

TV news shows are not the only way that people get their news and information. Again, according to the Brill’s Content survey, a large number of us consider the show America’s Most Wanted to be news — 38%. Thirteen percent say that talk shows like the Tonight Show help them keep abreast of current events. And 5% get their information about the law from watching Ally McBeal.

Certainly, the line between news and entertainment has gotten blurry in this country. And sometimes the important information we should have learned and remembered along the way gets swept aside by the flood of infotainment. The Center for Survey Research and Analysis, University of Connecticut, reported that 49% of Americans polled were not able to recall any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. (Can you?)

Reading is essential. It’s essential when you’re in school. It remains essential long after you graduate, ’til the day you die. Your capacity to learn and expand your knowledge is always present, to help you improve your career and your life. Read and you’ll keep growing.

You need to know

Reading a newspaper is an excellent way to keep up with international, national, state, and local news, with adequate depth in a minimum amount of time. To reflect this, theDetroit News, a major daily newspaper, used to have a slogan that stated, “If you read theNews, you know.”

When it comes to the hvacr industry, that slogan applies just as much to theAir Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News. If you readThe News, you’ll know what’s happening in the industry. You’ll get current breaking news. You’ll get service and maintenance tips, along with training and product information. You’ll gain business management ideas. And you’ll get the latest scoop on legislative action and the lowdown on utilities.

A trade paper like The News gives you news and information you won’t get from any other source — certainly, you won’t get the depth.

For information of value, you need some detail, not the 30-sec headline news typical of TV. Even a lengthy 60-sec broadcast report isn’t going to tell you that much. And TV features tend to be shallow as well, providing a superficial, lowest-common-denominator story that’s often more like a politician’s speech than a substantive report on the issues.

Your time is up

TV is limited by time. They don’t have much of it to give to a story. A routine story is measured in seconds. An important story is measured in minutes. Try telling a story in just one minute. Now take a luxurious (in TV time) two minutes. Can’t say much. Can’t tell your whole story. You have to cut it short. That’s what you’re getting with TV.

Newspapers give you a complete story. We have the space to cover all the bases, to give you the added explanation to help you fully understand the ideas presented, to get a better grasp of a complex story.

With new technology in particular, you need to keep up and stay knowledgeable. You can’t stay on the cutting edge by just absorbing sound bites from TV. You have to read to fully understand computers and the web — what they offer now and where they’re going. Otherwise you’ll be left behind, with only a vague idea of where everyone else went.

So, if you read The News, you’ll know about the hvacr industry. If you read your local paper, you’ll have general knowledge of the world around you. If you read a book(s), you’ll get all the depth you can handle.

But if you don’t read, you won’t know much about anything, possibly not even that the First Amendment guarantees you freedom of speech. And wouldn’t that be sad.