Technology, and journalism as art

Ed. note, disclosures &c — I work for Advance Digital, whose network includes several newspaper-partnered websites I mention here. All opinions are mine and not endorsed by my employer [full list of associated properties]. Any information about the company and its affiliates given here has already been public knowledge.

Let's start this off by talking about tablets. You know, iPads and Kindle Fires and such. If the third type of lie (statistics) is to be believed, half of American adults own a tablet. And 37% of tablet owners read news daily, on their tablets.

Overall, that puts at about 20% the percentage of Americans who read news daily on their tablets.

The only thing about that number that should be surprising is that it's so low. Of course, take into account your casual news reader (that is, someone who gets the bulk of their news from TV or radio sources), and I'm sure the number of people getting news on their tablets is much higher.

Again, this came as a surprise to no one. Here's a group of Knight Ridder folks talking about a tablet newspaper with interactive graphics and embeddable video and audio. In 1994.

Knight Ridder was bought out by McClatchy in 2006. Here is a list of their media properties. They're not lightweights, and they saw this coming.

I wrote last month that news is not in trouble. I still believe that's true, despite Morley Safer sounding the alarm because the New Orleans Times-Picayune went down to delivering the paper three days a week. They're still great work online.

So is the Pennsylvania Media Group, which has done a fantastic job covering things that matter to the local audience like high crime rates in Harrisburg and the Farm Show (Syracuse folks can equate that to the State Fair). And all that work despite the fact that the Patriot-News went down to three print days a week the first of the year.

Let me say it again. Technology is not killing news. It's killing newsprint. Here, in case you didn't get that:

Technology is not killing news, it's killing newsprint.

The New York Times' recent multimedia piece is worth spending your entire Sunday morning exploring. It's amazing journalism, and it could never be done on newsprint. That's not to say the Times should stop printing, but when you have tools at your disposal, use them.

Fifty years ago, New York City's seven daily newspapers – that's right, seven – were in the midst of a 114-day strike. Vanity Fair has a great piece marking the anniversary. The central issue was technology, and the refusal to move to new technologies on the part of some at the papers killed four of those papers.

Destroyed newsprint.

Back to that New York Times piece for a moment. That's the sort of artistic long-form journalism you couldn't do in a newspaper. And during that strike, newspaper people went off and became artists. Tom Wolfe. Jimmy Breslin. Nora Ephron. Gay Talese. Pate Hamill. And they, in turn, helped launch journalism as an art form, and 50 years later, someone like Fontezia Walker can take a creative writing class and make the rational leap to journalism as a career from there.

And so long as the stats on Internet usage are going to continue to grow, let's use the communications channels we have.


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