Submitted by: Phil Riebel 06/07/2012
What is the future of the truly printed word? It depends on the attitude of the respondent. Multimedia is here to stay, but ink is always better than pixel. I prefer a newspaper or book over what one blogger called a "cold, lifeless, plastic and metal box" — an e-reader. In the game of rock-paper-scissors, ink covers pixels. Ink will always win.
Thomas Jefferson believed that a personal library tells more about a person than spoken words. No one can see your library if it is hidden in a box.
Are there advantages to having that cold, lifeless, plastic and aluminum tablet in hand? Sure, but for the same price, I can have the experience of multiple books next to my reading chair, each calling out their desire to be read, vying for my attention.
There will be newspaper survivors of this digital onslaught. First will be the small-town weekly or biweekly, talking about Farmer Brown’s new calf or the local high school sporting team in the state finals. The heroes of those stories can cut out the page and hang it on their bedroom or dorm wall or mail it to grandma. One's 15 minutes (or is it seconds?) of fame is now a permanent memory.
One cannot do that if the local or regional paper is only online. Hanging an email on the wall does not have the same emotional impact and does not show the other occasions deemed important on that same day.
The other survivors will be those whose reputations are national and international — The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, even the Cleveland Plain Dealer among them.
Like the fear that newspapers would become obsolete with the advent of radio, radio with television and now all three with the computer, these new predictions will be unfounded. Even vinyl records are making a comeback after their premature death was announced with the advent of the cassette, which "died" with the CD and DVD, which "died" with BluRay.
I am not one who looks backward. I believe in a simple strategy: If it ain't broken, make it better. Atrophy means death. From this you may believe that my position on words carried by wood pulp is out of whack; it's not. It is reality. Even the Missourian will need to revisit its print version to make it better, stronger and more attuned to those who believe that the news is worthy.
Newsy gives me a story in 90 seconds. From Yahoo and Google News, less than that. Initial Associated Press tweets tell me nothing. Maybe the Missourian should bring back long-form and investigative journalism. Maybe closer ties with the business, science and law departments to produce specialists. Just thoughts.
We tend to say "no" or "can't" too quickly. Maybe it's really time to think in different boxes.