Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Pondering the end of print media

With my cable TV off and no ability to record programs, I’m left to DVDs and the videocassettes in my possession that still work, though I can use the rabbit ears on the TV if I’m really desperate.

In any case, of late I’ve been doing a lot of reading. In addition to recently finishing Stephen King’s novel “11/22/63,” I’ve been downloading library books on my Kindle and passing them to my laptop. I’ve also been nosing around in my complete New York Times DVD archive of front pages (up to 2008).

My other favorite places to explore the past are my DVDs of the complete Rolling Stone magazine archive (up to 2007) and The Complete New Yorker DVDs.

Though print is far from dead, I am worried because at some point, everything will be virtual and online, and then where will people find out what the big news was? The permanence of print comes to the fore when you read the front page of the Times (or any other newspaper) for Dec. 8, 1941. The newsmagazines of the time also had intense coverage of World War II, and not in what I call “History Channel time” but in the real time as people lived it.

In the New Yorker, I watched the war unfold, with information and misinformation alike in its pages. After the shock of the attack on Pearl and the Japanese offensive through the Pacific, including the fall of the Philippines, people were frustrated. Why weren’t we hitting back at the Japanese? After Germany declared war, why weren’t we hitting back at Germany?

The reality was that it took time to crank up industry and get it moving toward war production. People were needed to serve in the military and work in the factories, and it took time to get them set up and organized. It may seem that the men who filled the recruiting stations on Dec. 8 set off immediately for training, but that’s not true, I read once. Military camps and bases had to be built, training cadres organized and civilian educational facilities converted for military training use.

I learned all about that reading the media of the time. It’s amazing that much of it is online or in electronic format now, so the technology that will kill print helps to preserve past printed material for interested folks like me to learn.

But when print is finally supplanted, how will people know what was the big story, or even the little story? More fascinating than the big war news of battles are the little stories of life that never get into those documentaries about the home front in the war. But they’re there in the magazines of the time, if you’re patient enough to find them.

Maybe someone will preserve the websites that we’re generating like mad to keep people informed. I hope so. Eighty years from now, I’ll be gone but I hope some of my work will be preserved online, so others can see the perspectives of this age, and not filtered through a popular source like the History Channel.


January 18, 2012 - Posted by | Living in the modern age, The news business, Vinny's Book Club | , , , , ,

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