How will Tom, Dick and Harry read?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Over the course of my post-Christmas/January-Locate-Sort-Destroy Phase I enjoyed reconnecting with things I’d forgotten.

On one of my bookshelves I came across an old black album containing a small lifetime’s collection of quotes, newspaper clippings, cartoons, and stories that I’d saved. I even turned up the poem we found in my dad’s wallet after he died. (I’d been wondering where I’d put that…) 

A peachy-yellow aged Leisure Section of the May 27, 1990 Cedar Rapids Gazette was among the stack. I couldn’t help but note the difference in page size as compared to what arrives these mornings. In 1990 the paper was 22-¾ inches long and 13-¾ inches wide. Today’s edition is less than 21 inches long and 11 inches in width. 

The paper listed the following among the “Best Sellers” that week: 

Stephen King’s The Stand

Rosamunde Pilcher’s September (this book made me fall in love with her writing of life in the cold land called Scotland)

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary was even on the list!

Sue Grafton’s “G” is for Gumshoe was selling. She’s now up to the letter “U.”

That May issue carried articles about transporting young readers to other lands and times through—of all things—physical copies of books

Joseph Wambaugh was returning to writing detective fiction that year. 

Cedar Rapids had five different theaters around town at the time.

Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman got Two Thumbs Up, and Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn (looking considerably younger!) were in the theaters with Bird on a Wire. Back to the Future III was showing. 

A “News Notes about Travel” included a short on how US airlines were teaming up with the federal government to deter terrorist attacks during the summer tourist season. 

The currency exchange rate was listed at the top of one page in a corner. 

I especially enjoyed reading the spread on “The Geography of Cedar Rapids” looking at the Past–complete with neat old historical pictures. Looking at the Present—a clip that included The Islamic Mosque and Center. And spoke of the Future, listing 5 new places/businesses to come–one of which included “a new Catholic High School that was expected to be complete in 1993.” This would be Xavier Catholic High School where greats like Zack Johnson and Kurt Warner graduated. 

What a trip this was for me that morning, and that paper really isn’t all that old, but just look at the changes implicated! 

My eyes roved around the full pages of printed news, picking up the interest in this corner or at the bottom of that page, or off to the right hand margin and it was kind of fun being able to browse without having to move a computer mouse and keep switching to new screens. 

Just look at all the territory I got to cover in a few pages, and no one was watching me from “out there” as I did so. No one popped up trying to get me to check out my credit rating, or sell me a new cell phone, or get my account numbers. I was “alone” in this process. 

Understand me well—I love my computer, internet access, blogging and social networking. It makes a lot of my work much, much easier, but still the question looms in my mind: 

Is there some intrinsic level of information–or fun– lost when one can only get one path of information per screen on a computer and can have it “instantly”—as compared to all the tidbits and information I got from being able to look at one full-sized newspaper page? 

The next generation doesn’t care you say. Okaaay–maybe they don’t. But I wonder if they might a little farther along the pipeline of their own lives? Is there a broader level of reporting/sharing responsibility that’s going to disappear because of texting, blogging, Skype-ing, You-Tubing, Tweeting or email-forwarding? Everything that happens doesn’t reveal all of its true nature in the instant that it happens. Are we forgetting this? 

And since it just floats around out there in cyber land–will it get shared with anyone else down the path—after us? 

Will it matter? 

Will anyone else farther down the road have as much fun as I did the other morning by just sitting back and rereading all those peachy-yellow-aged colored little articles of a mere 21 years ago—since they most likely will never have a hard copy of what they or someone else wrote and shared? 

A friend emailed the following link to me last week on the future of journalism by Jim Pollock regarding the direction of journalism and where it might be headed these days in light of the Big Bang of the Internet Age. I found it interesting.