As the credits roll to ‘State of Play’ we get to see the last dance of the old paper company. The plates are put on these big rollers, sheaves of paper are pulled up into the air with fresh ink plastered upon them, and they are thrown into big vans for distribution. It’s one of the most beautiful and tragic visuals of a dying media. More importantly it’s something that was once modern and is now antiquated all within our lifetimes. The fact that printing presses are a part of this modern society is almost astounding, and seems more a vestige of our giant conglomerates than a need for them. Please take a bow Old Man and accept this lifetime achievement award. Time to move on. All the paper and ink – building individual newspapers for singular consumption – distributing it all over the world – How dated and wasteful!
It reminds me we are a generation stuck in the past (even though its the present right… now), and we are transitioning to a digital lifestyle kicking and screaming. Andy Marino (a fellow author here) and I were discussing books the other day. He is a novelist with three masterpieces under his belt, and is unbelievably sad that these real paperbacks will eventually fall to their digital counterparts. It couldn’t be better for everyone though. We’re at a point where all books can be everywhere. The opportunities that presents to developing countries is unfathomable. All we need to do is make sure that we get some tablets to all corners of the world with some nice wifi signals attached.
Recently I had a conversation with a would be journalist going to Columbia University, and were talking about the death of ‘real reporting’. I’m happy to inform all the naysayers that it’s not going anywhere. It’s just coming at us from more resources, and we are learning how to sift through the endless mounds of media that are being created. Personally, I’m glad that we’re moving towards niche press. Not everything has to be housed under one roof. In fact it’s that diversity which will give us the freedom to read and understand more within any given field.
The discussion, as always happens with journalism majors these days, arrived at ‘The Big story’. This is newspaper’s argument that a super sleuth reporter needs major resources to follow leads over an extended period of time. Whenever this comes up I can’t help but think about The Smoking Gun and how they uncovered (after a six week long investigation) that James Frey had lied about the memoir he wrote. Good reporting isn’t going anywhere. I actually think the fact that media is coming from different places is what makes great reporters scared. Perhaps the prose isn’t perfect or the story needs more investigating. Hell, in their shoes I’d be mad too. How do you go into an ever more crowded medium? Which newspaper or blog do you choose to write for? Which is the one that give you the ‘cred’ that you desire? How do you make it to ‘The Show’ (like a New York Times) in these changing days? What if the top isn’t the top anymore? It’s very confusing.
I’m a blogger doesn’t have such a nostalgic ring to it, but wait a decade it will get there. It always does. We have full time Twitterati now, and that is a subclass that will continue to diversify. As the Twitterers specialize further into marketers, news guides, and things of this nature we’ll see a discrepancy form. Similarly to the way that reporters frowned at bloggers we’ll see the same for our Twitterati. “Long form” bloggers will create their own “Show”, and our Twitterati will use that divide to their advantage. I would be surprised if all our news media didn’t become a series of blogs and tweets with tons of videos and podcasts linked into them. Hell – I guess we’re already there. These newspapers just weren’t invited to the party.
Reporting is changing. This digital transparency we’re creating will continue to force accountability on all of us. If anything, websites like Facebook have shown our privacy between one another decreasing. Generally speaking, more of us allow more people into our lives. It’s much harder to hide things from others, and I find myself caring less if people do know more about me. There is an onslaught of personal media beaming out to hundreds of people all the time. We’re writing our digital histories, and we want people to look. Every person I meet has more free time than ever before to express themself. We’re becoming an ever more self involved culture. Many times we only pay attention to the interesting things others are doing so we can write or create something about them. Then we say, “Come look at this awesome thing I made about this other person doing something awesome”.
It used to be difficult to throw your thoughts out to the greater public. With those barriers gone, how easy it is to write to the masses, there is nothing stopping us. It’s the rise of the creative class that is building our new media infrastructure. We’re still just popping our heads out of the proverbial cave in terms of the internet. We always walk out into the light with trepidation because it is that fear of the unknown that makes us human. Yet we always take that step.
I get it – we’re all nostalgic about our paper things, but this change is exciting as it has opened up the gates for countless others to be heard. We all deserve that much. Anyways – it’s my birthday – Here we are in 2009, and I can’t help but want to look around the corner once more. Last night I had the pleasure of checking out the film ‘State of Play’, and it got me thinking.