Monday, April 7, 2008

Hello, Goodbye

This story from sfgate by professor Peggy Drexler -- well, what to do? It is tinged with the sort of elegiac sadness over a vanished land that we seem to love these days. Yet her underlying point is -- don't let others define the playing field for us, let us play to our strengths. Some excerpts:

"Sure, the Internet is a wonderful place to be. But the digital newspaper shares space with those who post because they have a position to promote, a score to settle, a diet to sell or that voice in the microwave told them to.

"Newspapers are better than that. They are apart from that. No, they don't always get it right. But they are the only daily medium of depth that has the resources and the responsibility to try.
They are the alternative to wrapping our lives in the perspectives of those who believe exactly as we do - cheering as the Bill O'Reillys and Keith Obermanns lob rhetorical loogies at each from behind the battlements.

"Newspaper companies will try to keep eyeballs and advertisers by investing in the Web. But a medium that was born free and has been ingenious in staying that way may or may not ever make enough money to sustain the kind of journalism it would replace.

"As Sulzberger talked about this downward spiral in essentialness of the American newspaper, I realized there is nobody to blame because it is nobody's fault. You don't blame cell phones when you can't find a phone booth. It's simply the onslaught of technology and the inevitability of consumer choice."

I want to agree with her, but part of what she's saying is: Gee, wasn't it better before we had to think about all this stuff? Yeah, it was. But "Alas, what an artist is about to perish" is not the right answer, although we love to soak it up.

This week I'll be looking for the right answer at America's greatest journalism training program, the American Copy Editors Society conference. Hope to see you in Denver.

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