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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Print is Dead

The other evening I popped into Ralph's supermarket to pick up some fried chicken for dinner. As I was leaving, sitting next to the entrance was a guy attempting to sell subscriptions to the Los Angeles Times. Of course, he stops me to give me his pitch, to which I replied, "I don't necessarily care for the LA Times, but when I do read it, I get it on the Internet." That response sort of set him back a moment and he said, "Well, you can't get coupons off the Internet. You use coupons don't yah? There's nothing political about coupons" Odd that he should equate my aversion to the LA Times to politics, which goes to show me he knows the paper has a political bias. At any rate, this "coupon" pitch seems like the typical response these days from newspaper salesmen. My wife does use coupons, but she can easily download them from off the net. We don't need a weekly paper for that.

Later, just hours later on the same evening mind you, I get a telemarketing call from the LA Times main competitor, the LA Daily News. I told the fellow the same thing, "If I have a need to read the Daily News, I will get it off the Internet." He responded by saying, "Well, you can't get coupons off the Internet." You have to be kidding me? I told him the same thing I told the LA Times guy just a couple of hours earlier, "Yes, as a matter of fact, you can download coupons off the Internet, my wife and her friends do it regularly, and we save nearly 80 bucks a week on groceries doing it." He didn't believe me. "There is no such website." I tried my best to tell him there was, but he then turned to this pitch: "Well, you can't take the Internet with you in the car or to a coffee shop to read it." I quickly reminded him of laptops and wireless Internet connections and told him that yes, I can take the Internet with me. The phone went silent for a couple of seconds. "Well," he responded, "One of these days your Internet is going to go down and then where will you be?" It beats me, but I am still not buying a newspaper subscription.

Remember the movie Ghostbusters? There is a scene where the nerdy scientist guy, Dr. Egon Spengler, played by Harold Ramis, is asked by the new secretary if he read a lot. "Print is dead," he states matter-of-factly. In a manner of speaking he is right, particularly as it pertains to newspapers.

My major in college was Radio/Television Communications. My major required me to take these night classes that dealt with discussing the future of communications with television, radio and journalism. At that time in the late 80s, the big future trend everyone raved about was optic cable television. Optic cable was suppose to provide interactive television that allowed people to choose their own programming. No one among my teachers or peers predicted the dawning of the Internet and the cultural impact it would have in shaping how we communicated. This is especially true with the advent of blogging and the slow demise of newspaper journalism and broadcast news. Why is that?

I think there are handful of obvious reasons.

First, the Internet is instantaneous news. Newspapers take a day to print and get on the street. Much can change in twenty-four hours. On a blog site, the owner can post information immediately and it can be read all over the world by anyone who thinks of coming to the site.

Secondly, there can be thoughtful analysis by the blogger. This is something severely lacking in any big city newspaper. Moreover, the more credibility a blogger has in providing thoughtful links and analysis, the more people will stop by and check out what has been posted. A popular blog can have maybe double the amount of readers on a daily basis as a regular sized newspaper has subscribers.

Thirdly, bloggers are not beholden to an annoying editorial reviewer. He or she can speculate all they want. If the person is headed in the wrong direction, thoughtful readers can comment, once again, immediately, and maybe provide some further information the blogger missed and that will help shape the analysis.

Fourth, bloggers tend not to operate under the pretend titles of "fair, balanced and objective." They are at liberty to say I am conservative or I am liberal or I am a kook. I can actually log on to a blog knowing full well the political bent of the blogger. Where as most newspapers reporting is left of center, they never tell the readers their true agenda.

Fifth, bloggers don't need to get a throw away college education in journalism in order to post their reports. This idea of the necessity of a college education for journalism is simply ridiculous and is one of the biggest cons cast onto the public and one of the biggest wastes of money. Why is there a need to attend college to learn about reporting fairly and accurately and the philosophy of objectivity? Does the student receive some special anointing as a journalist after completing all their course work? The journalism school at Arkansas State was far from teaching students about fair, accurate and objective. If anything, the entire college was like a workshop on affectively spreading leftist propaganda. The students enrolled there were certainly the rebels against anything decent and normal. They were the ones (all 30 of them) who protested the war against Iraq in '91, as well as expressed outrage at our local cable company refusing to air The Last Temptation of Christ.

A prime example of the cultural impact of the Internet, and blogging specifically, is the Dan Rather bogus Bush documents from last year right before the election. Within hours of broadcasting a 60 minutes piece claiming old National Guard documents describe how Bush allegedly fudged facts to get out of doing military service, bloggers had shown them to be fraudulent, which in turn revealed a severe political bias on the part of CBS and Dan Rather. Twenty years ago, with only 3 networks and no Internet, the story may have held on for quite a while and ruined chances of Bush being re-elected. Those questioning the authenticity of the documents would have been dismissed as being conspiracy cranks.

Mary Mapes, the hapless producer of Dan Rather's 60 minute program, is preparing to launch a new book about the whole bogus Bush documents scandal. A good portion of the discussion is an expression of anger toward all the bloggers who until that time were relatively unknown and how they brought her and Rather down, exposing them both as being the partisan shills they truly are. Transterrestrial Musings has a fabulous break down and response to Mapes accusations.

When it comes to newspapers, I am sorry to tell the eager salesman that they are promoting the last breathes of a dying industry. I truly pity them, but I am sorry to tell them saving 50 cents on a can of corn is not enough to get me to buy your paper.

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