Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Times, they are a-changin' ...

I am waxing nostalgic today. Perhaps it has a little something to do with the fact that I am buying a car made the same year I was born - a 1979 Lincoln Town Coupe (powder blue, by the way). It may have something to do with the subject of my last class - the decline of traditional media, e.g. The New York Times et al.

I was particularly moved toward this very subject when, after class, I came upon the article below:
Generally, it concerns the matter of the very prime real estate of the New York Times' 52-story Manhattan headquarters being up for grabs. The venture arose from an effort on the part of the paper to raise $250 million; they were "saved" from this fate by way of a Mexican billionaire. That, however, is a story for another day.

The thought - bringing this back to the subject of declining media - circles around the same inevitable question: is the advent of immediate information (i.e. Internet news feeds, streaming video, and the like) along with the ever-shortening attention spans of mass media consumers going to kill off that which we know to be news? And then, secondarily, is that so bad?

Given the jumping-off point(s) of moveable type, the printing press, etc., one must realize that the problem inherent to comparing such innovations to the present circumstance lies in the orientation. Before moveable type, what did we have? There was no broadly available text, readership (literacy) was limited and there were myriad gaps between the intellectual concept and practical applications.

In the present context, where the question is whether to read hard-copy or surf innumerable sources simultaneously, the choice of even the most conservative among us tends toward the bounty of information. That is to say, that few among us subscribe to even three (let alone five or six or 20) of the world's papers and spread them out before us at breakfast to read them - cover to cover. Nonetheless, many of us regularly open several windows simultaneously to read two articles, a web-log, the latest celebrity gossip, an email from a friend, an advertisement from a preferred store, and whatever else happens across the screen.

It is a question then of connectivity. I once said, of being an English major - that it was a solitary and insular engagement, concerned more with the mind's eye than the community voice. Interconnectivity, mutual engagement, and interaction on a grand scale are the buzz words du jour. We are at once and always in each other's thoughts, work, lives. Avoid the Orwellian cliches therein.

The old ways will die (are dying) - held onto only by tradition and the nostalgia I feel here, writing this. There is hope for the elite few, perhaps, and I hope that the New York Times will be among those - as it has been to date. We are not on the dawn of new things; they arrived. Are here. Is it so bad that things are changing? The answer to that lies in what so many sum up simply as nostalgia.

The romance of bygone days (and things) is the small prize we collect when the light of those real things fades.

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