Read Wide and Far


By Chuck Warren

Sunday has become a more treasured day as Father Time follows me more than he did decades ago.

It is a day for me to attend church, commune with the Divine, and handwrite personal correspondence to friends, family, and associates.

It offers a brief respite from the week, allowing me to walk in nature and catch up on articles that are not necessarily current events or headline news – today’s national topic being the debt ceiling agreement – but rather profiles on people (see footnote on profiles newsletter)1, historical events, everyday heroes, and long-read articles that newspapers sometimes still print.

Today one of those saved stories, delivered to my inbox, was a 1954 piece from the New Yorker entitled “The Story of the First Sherpa to Climb to the Top of Mount Everest.  The profile was about Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who was the first to reach Everest, and it explored people’s reactions to his achievement, his dreams, and the second phase of his career. Spoiler alert – there were a lot of jealous, gossipy jerks in 1954, just as there are today. Ahh, to be human.

While the prose was descriptive and tight, offering wonderful insights into people and the man profiled, the story reminded me of my friend Bill Stevenson and a lesson he taught me.

Bill was a wildcatter by profession and former chairman of the Utah Republican Party. He played a crucial role in the Reagan Revolution in Utah and was one of the architects who flipped Utah from Democrat to Republican. Yes, dear reader, Utah was once blue. He was a Reagan conservative who took an interest in me when I was a young college student. During meetings, I would often show up without wearing socks, which he always found amusing and alarming.

As our friendship blossomed, he gave me a New Yorker subscription one Christmas.  I was aware of the New Yorker, maybe picked up a copy or two while at the airport or college library, but never thought about subscribing to it.

Bill that day put his arm around me and said (paraphrasing), “Your mind is curious. Promise me you will always read far and wide. Don’t get stuck in a narrow way of thinking. My conservatism entertains and considers multiple viewpoints. See both sides of the argument. It’s a big world.”

From that day forward, I became book and subscription poor. Subscribe

I accumulated too many books to count and subscribed to a range of publications, including Time, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Review, Weekly Standard, and special interest magazines and journals like Psychology Today and Foreign Affairs. I also subscribed to newspapers ranging from The New York Times and The Washington Post to the Arizona Republic and The Wall Street Journal. Between daily newspapers and magazine subscriptions, I now have nineteen subscriptions. My co-host Sam Stone on Breaking Battlegrounds gets irritated with me because I send him articles that are protected behind paywalls. I tell Sam to stop being cheap and unlock his wallet.

I write this not for self-flagellation, but because I am concerned many Americans, left and right, are stuck in the intellectual bubble and unwilling to read from a variety of sources. Which makes one unprepared to understand their neighbors and yet be informed enough to see errors of logic and rhetoric in writing.

As a conservative, I am frightened that Independents and Democrats read more books than conservatives. Conservatism should encourage intellectualism, not discourage it.

Of course, the content you choose to read matters. Multiple studies have found that Republicans consistently rank higher in understanding civics and are more open-minded. However, setting that fact aside, we need a populace that thinks more deeply and understands opposing views. We need a society where reading to learn and challenge ourselves comes back into vogue.

As you read more, you become a little less likely to be deceived. It increases your Spidey Senses. The media does not often just plain out lie, but they omit.  Oh, do they omit.

They bypass differing voices or facts.  An aware reader will recognize this. Case in point is how they covered the current debt ceiling debate.  So many facts were omitted by the media and their social media acolytes that one would think that a U.S. President had never negotiated budgets or dealt with the debt ceiling before.

Another example was by Graham Hillard, who wrote an article about NPR bias in the Weekly Standard entitled, “Signal Failure.” He wrote “Take the subject of transgenderism, an NPR idee fixe that feels at times like the broadcaster’s sole journalistic concern.  To the dismay of both conservatives and reality-adjacent liberals, an NPR news articles reported last month that ‘there is limited scientific research’ supporting the notion that biological make athletes have an innate physical advantage over females. While the broadcaster walked back the claim two days later, the incident was nevertheless revealing. Common sense, hard data, and the experience of billions across the generations are as nothing compared to the demands of contemporary leftist orthodoxies.” 

What makes NPR reporting so corrosive, dishonest, and insidious is their practice of publishing articles and reports without offering anyone the chance to provide a counterpoint. Equal time and treatment is not their dogma.

How can you know what kind of pushback is needed unless you broaden your curiosity and expand your learning beyond memes and shallow social media remarks? Don’t rely on others to dispel omissions and rhetoric. You are smarter than that.

This is what many in the media do now. They stick to one side of perspectives, never presenting alternative views or facts.

They lie by omission.

So, follow Bill’s advice. Read far and wide. Not only to challenge yourself, but also to broaden your horizon, to appreciate life more and to push against the perilous agendas some are hell bent stuffing down America’s throat. You don’t need to spend money and subscribe if you do not have it. Visit your local library. If they don’t have a good cross section of magazines, newspapers and books, take it up with them.