With the recent announcement by the Christian Science Monitor that they are ending the print version of the newspaper, the handwriting on the wall about the old fashioned daily newspaper suddenly turned into bold face. Most newspapers groked the concept of an online presence years ago, but they–like those of us who grew up with them–have been clinging to newsprint and ink as long as they can.
Perhaps it was through the many iterations of StarTrek that many of us discovered that the day would come when books, newspapers and–in fact–a database of all the information in the known universe would one day be available on a viewer that looks sort of like Amazon’s Kindle does now. This change has seemed rather inevitable and I see a dark side in it. Not a conspiratorial dark side, but a collateral damage dark side.
Back in the days when the only national news came from a broadcast network, newspaper people pointed out that while ABC, CBS and NBC did have the luxury of showing live action, the contents of the standard 30-minute nightly news would all fit in a small corner of the front page of a daily newspaper. The point was clear: television for immediacy and a quick response, newspapers and magazines for the follow-up depth.
The collateral damage dark side I see as newspapers disappear in print form, is that that depth is going to be a lot harder to find. People already have a short enough attention span already, believing as they do that Twitter and Facebook are providing them with all the knowledge fit to print. Clinging to print as I do, I feel I can learn a lot more information a lot quicker by flipping through the pages of a good newspaper.
I become angry when I go onto a media outlet’s website–tempted by one headling or another–and find that the story cannot be quickly read off the screen. Instead, I mush click on a sideways-pointing triangle and watch a video load up where a reporter begins a story with, “Hi, this is Joe Smith here reporting for CNN’s mid-day news, and I’m standing in the cold snow in fron of the city hall in Junction City with mayor Mark Trail.”
That doesn’t cut it. Why? Because I could have read a printed story off my screen faster than it took the reporter to do his or her lead-in. My eyes could have scanned it for the information I wanted rather than waiting for the linear video to go through the whole thing.
Since I’m hosting a blog here, I’m obviously not trapped in the dark ages. I’m on the Internet daily from LinkedIn to Plaxo to MySpace to Facebook to GoodReads…etc etc etc. But I’ve been there up to now with a figurative safety net: the newspaper some guy throws in my driveway every morning.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell