New Blog, New Media

May 1, 2008

As befits a blog embarkation, this first post is about online media.  More specifically, it’s a rumination on the decline of print media in favor of this forum-ed format. 

Yes, old news, I know.

Speaking of old news, The Capital Times, a 90 year old paper out of Madison, WI, printed its last edition Saturday.  As an afternoon daily- a breed of newspaper pioneered by Hearst and Pulitzer as a way to sell papers to a blue collar, third-shift readership- its decline was steady and inexorable.  Yet the Times, as famous for its support of Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette as it was for its denunciation of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, will continue flying its progressive banner with a strictly online presence (read the full article at the New York Times). 

A futurist by trade but a nostalgist at heart, I know that the idea of smearing the day’s news over a twice-folded bundle of dead trees is an antiquated concept.  Eventually, when the last physical paper migrates into cyberspace, I’ll miss the tactile sensation of folding back the pages while sipping my €35 latte at the Galactic Starbucks.

But nostalgia aside, the trend of newspapers becoming online outlets more than tangible but obsolescence-prone repositories is a good thing.  First off, news is disseminated quicker and more efficiently.  Just as TV newscasts preempt the morning paper, internet postings scoop even the early evening news.  Second, relevance is the new king.  The Sunday paper never had a search function; online, a reader can hone in on those topics of most interest.  And last but not least, the internet facilitates a level of interactivity that adds an extra dimension to a paper’s core function.  Call it the Wiki effect: the average article sees more expert responses in the first 6 hours of posting than an editorial page could accommodate if it dedicated six weeks to a topic.  Of course, the worthwhile discourse is often buried beneath flames and insipidity, but that’s the open-source price we pay.

The blogger has become the new columnist.  The response boards are the new op-ed pages.  The newswire RSS feed is the new three-inch headline.  This is the newspaper of today.

I’ll miss sitting in the shadow of the Madison statehouse with a copy of the Times, but it’s comforting to know it’s only an iphone and a hotspot away.


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