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Are there any works that discuss the permissibility of reading secular newspapers on a weekday? The Ketzos HaShulchan (Badei HaShulchan 107:43) holds that it's forbidden:

Other [i.e. not Torah] newspapers in our generation are pretty much all against G-d and His anointed and are full of dirty jokes, heresy, and atheism, unfortunately, and even on a weekday it is forbidden to read them. Even if someone only wants to read the news part brought in the newspapers, it's still forbidden, lest he continue to read the other bad parts ... [Someone who reads them] transgresses "Don't turn to the idols" and strengthens his yetzer hara against himself ... Many people stumble in this area because they don't impart to themselves the enormity of the prohibition; someone who cares about his soul should distance himself from them, because these newspapers have brought down tons of soldiers.

Shmiras Shabbas KeHilchasah (ch. 21 note 117) quotes this source and doesn't bring a dissenting view.

The practice seems to be to read newspapers. I was wondering if there was a discussion of this in the modern poskim. (It's said that the Netziv would read the newspaper on Shabbas, but his position isn't clear — we don't know his exact reasoning. I'm looking for modern poskim who specifically speak about the issue and aren't just quoted as having read it or say it as a side point so I can see their reasons, etc.)

It was also asked about Reading a newspaper on Shabbat, but this is dealing with weekdays.

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I wasn't aware there was debate about what the Netziv's position was. What emergency could there possibly have been anyway? Here you can read what the Netziv's nephew (primary source!) wrote about the Netziv's reading newspapers: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=48316&st=&pgnum=122 – Double AA Oct 16 '12 at 4:01
+1, nicely asked. – msh210 Oct 16 '12 at 4:23
@DoubleAA It's true that most likely there was no emergency (though I didn't know where the original source was to check). However, he doesn't discuss why it's permissible – b a Oct 16 '12 at 4:28
Here are t'shuvos that discourage newspaper reading in passing: Iggres Moshe YD 2:76, Minchas Yitzchok 3:79. Not posting as an answer because the question specifically asked for direct discussions of the subject. – Michoel Oct 16 '12 at 11:06
The last part of the statement you translated as "have shot tons of soldiers" is actually a quote from Mishlei 7:26 - "‫רבים חללים הפילו‬ " mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt2807.htm#26 -- Literally translated as chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16378/showrashi/true "For many are the dead that she [i.e. the heart] has felled" , or "For she hath cast down many wounded;" Basically saying (I think) that the heart has led astray many vulnerable people, and as such, one should not follow after it. Or in this case, don't read the newspaper because it has lead many astray. – Menachem Oct 16 '12 at 17:10

למה לי קרא? סברא הוא

It is logical that a person should know about the world about him. In some communities, fencing off the world is an ideal, and you would expect to find explicit teshuvot against reading of newspapers. But in other communities, this would not even rise to the level of a question, such that of course one may read the news. And it would then be implicit in their actions, such as in the actions of the Netziv. Lack of explicit teshuvot permitting is meaningless.

But here are some explicit statements, as regards reading on Shabbos, but if on Shabbos it is permitted, then certainly during the week:

QUESTION: Is it permitted to read the general news section of the newspaper on Shabbos [and Yom Tov]?

DISCUSSION: Reading the general news section of the newspaper - including news, politics or stories of general interest, and advertisement or business news that have no bearing on the finances or shopping needs or plans of the reader, are a subject of dispute among the poskim. We find three basic opinions:

  • Many hold that reading this type of material is included in the Rabbinical edict against reading non-business documents and is forbidden to be read.(13)

  • Others hold that if one enjoys reading these type of articles then it is permitted to do so. These poskim maintain that the Rabbinical edict against reading non-business documents does not include enjoyable reading material.(14) Mishnah Berurah, however, does not support this position.(15)

  • Some poskim hold that while it may be permitted to read certain parts of the newspaper, reading a newspaper should be strongly discouraged since it is extremely difficult to avoid the advertisements or other parts of the paper which are forbidden to be read.(16) But other poskim, however, permit the reading of a newspaper as long as one makes a conscious effort to avoid the forbidden sections.(17)

The following is a free translation of guidelines given by Harav N. Karelitz(18) on this subject: "While a ben Torah and his family should avoid reading a newspaper on Shabbos altogether, we do not object to those who are lenient and read the permissible parts of the newspaper. This is especially true with regard to women, children and those who do not engage in the study of Torah [who require a kosher alternative so that they will not come to engage in idle or forbidden talk or worse]; we definitely should not object to their reading the permissible parts of the newspaper."

One should consult his halachic authority for guidance as to how he should conduct himself in this matter.

You could then refer to footnotes 14,17, and 18:

14 See Magen Avraham 301:4 and Peri Megadim; Ya'avatz 1:162; Kalkeles Shabbos 33; Tehillah l'David 301:1; Da'as Torah 307:15.

17 See Da'as Torah 307:16, Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 29:46. See also Igros Moshe O.C. 5:22-3 who writes that business newspapers should not be read.

18 Ayil Meshulash on Shitrei Hedyotos, pg. 79, 83 and 210, and in Menuchah Shleimah, 2.

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I would add that if there are teshuvot forbidding newspaper reading on Shabbas, they would implicitly permit reading during the week (unless that's specifically mentioned). Otherwise why ask the question? – Charles Koppelman Nov 5 '12 at 16:25
+1 for the "explicit statements". But why "It is logical that a person should know about the world about him"? – msh210 Nov 5 '12 at 17:48
thanks. what do you mean "why"? למה לי קרא? סברא הוא. This is the sort of implicitly obvious thing that it is an exercise in futility to try to explain and prove. – josh waxman Nov 5 '12 at 19:06
@CharlesKoppelman Because the level of the issur might vary. For instance, eating pork on Yom Kippur violates the fast of Yom Kippur. – Double AA Nov 5 '12 at 20:08
I agree with Charles Koppelman. Especially if those who assur on Shabbat are silent about an issur during the week. This seems like a prohibition invented by some, but not all, Acharonim. – josh waxman Nov 5 '12 at 20:16

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