Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What if newspapers didn't exist?

With the piss poor shape that the media now finds itself in (largely of its own making but that’s for another day) TJ Sullivan at the LA Observer asks what things would be like with no press.

It's time to do something drastic.

It's time to do more than join another Facebook pledge group, or promote a campaign like National Buy A Newspaper Day, or to purchase some overpriced t-shirts emblazoned with the message "Save a journalist, buy a newspaper."

Now is the time for newspapers to do something proactive; time for them to demonstrate what life would be like without them.

It's time for every daily newspaper in the United States, in cooperation with the Associated Press, to shut down their free Web sites for one week.

Yes. Shut it down. Blank screen. Nothing.
Heavens no, whatever will we do!

Somehow, I don’t think that TJ really grasps the concept of how the internet works.

Guys like TJ want to save the newspapers for the same reason that tailors rioted and destroyed a factory full of sewing machines in St Etienne in 1838. He is afraid that this mew liberating technology might not turn out to be such a good deal for him in the long run as his current gig is.

Oh, sure TJ loves the fact that unlike 20 years ago, people all over the world now know what he is listening to on his Ipod, or which recent episode of the Daily Show prompted him to paint the sink with his man hose thinking of John Stewart. But just like TJ, every other asshole on the planet has access to the megaphone.

Unlike the old days where TJ and all his peers could count on a comfortable low six figure life inside the media industry, writing the same old cliché filled pieces of left wing gospel, news consumers now find themselves with an explosion of high quality readily accessible information. The best part about this information is that although they are amature writers, they are professional experts.

For example, what would you rather listen to

1. A combat and Special Forces veteran write about Iraq or a graduate of Smith College/Columbia write about Iraq?

2. A retired nuclear engineer with 40 years in the business write about nuclear power or a comparative literature major from Brown write about nuclear power?

3. A CPA write about Sarbanes Oxley and what it means or a reporter who 6 weeks ago was doing the police beat write about Sarbanes Oxley?

And its not to take away from what they do; good writing and how one conveys thoughts and ideas is just as important a skill, but it seems that they are far more common in the MSM than real honest to goodness expert in the fields.

Its cute that he mentioned Thomas Jefferson as many times in the article as he did. Cute because I don’t think that Jefferson would be to thrilled with the post-modern crypto collectivism and rampant identity politics that passes for journalistic excellence these days and especially super duper cute considering this quote from Jefferson

The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
-Thomas Jefferson
But here’s another thought to ponder, especially for that most noble of creatures: the jet setting, eco-friendly, hypocritical, literati/glitterati set: what could we do without more for a week, coal fired power plants or newspapers?

YOU make the call.

1 comment:

  1. "Reading" online will never be the same! -- "Screening" enters the
    online vocabulary.

    Do you "screen" news online, or do you "read" news in print
    newspapers? -- A new word has been coined to refer to reading
    information online, changing the way we take in information

    by Dan Bloom

    NEW YORK (RUSHPRNEWS) -- What you are doing now is not reading, but
    "screening." Yes, you are at this very moment screening the text
    printed digitally on this computer screen. You are not reading text on
    a paper surface; you are "screening" this article through the lens of
    the computer screen in front of you. A new word is born -- screening!

    When a top computer industry writer at the New York Times was told
    about this new term, he told RushPRnews in a one-word email note:

    Screening? Can anyone just coin a new word and make it stick? No, but
    new words are coined every day, and some stick and some don't. Time
    will tell whether or not "screening" (to mean "reading information on
    a computer screen, as distinct from reading a print newspaper or
    magazine or book") will stay with us or not. For now, the word has
    been accepted by the editors at urbandictionary.com and is listed


    Screening is defined as: "To read text on a computer screen, cellphone
    screen, Kindle screen or PDA screen or BlackBerry screen; replaces the
    term "reading" which now only refers to reading print text on paper."

    Example: "I hate reading print newspapers now. I do all my screening online."

    The word is so new, not everyone has seen it yet. And many do not
    agree with its coinage.
    Amit Gilboa, an Israeli writer living in Singapore, told RushPRnews:
    "No, it's still reading. Whether in a book, a print newspaper,
    chalkboard, whiteboard, it's still reading words made up of letters.
    Screening is still reading."

    However, Hidetoshi Abe in Tokyo, Japan, told this reporter he likes
    the new term and agrees it fits our new Internet age. "I think
    'screening' makes perfect sense to represent the way we now take in
    information via computer screens. It's a whole new ballgame."

    Reading, of course, is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols
    printed on
    a paper surface for the purpose of deriving meaning (reading
    comprehension) and/or constructing meaning, according to scholars.
    Written information on a
    printed page is received by the retina, processed by the primary
    visual cortex, and interpreted in Wernicke's area.

    But when we "read" online (or "screen", in the new coinage), the
    digitalized information is processed in a different way. Reading
    online is the same thing as reading on a paper surface in a book or
    magazine or newspaper.

    Reading on a print paper surface is a means of language acquisition,
    of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Screening on
    the Internet is a horse
    of a different color.

    Readers of print paper texts use a variety of reading strategies to
    assist with decoding (to translate symbols into sounds or visual
    representations of language), and comprehension. Screening online uses
    other strategies, and the information is processed by our brains in a
    different way as well.

    Reading text on print paper is now an important way for the general
    population in many societies to access information and make meaning.
    However, a new form of reading, called "screening" now takes place when a
    person "reads" text on a computer screen or PDA screen or cellphone
    screen. This form of reading, now called "screening", is a very
    different form of communcation.

    You have just "screened" your very first article online using this new
    term. You are now an Internet screener. Congratulations, and welcome
    to this amazing new world.

    Comments are more than welcome, pro and con.