Sunday, March 07, 2010

Fire and/or ice -- which will it be for print journalism as we know it?

Fire and Ice: Which Will It Be for Print Journalism As We Know It?
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-- Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice"

I've documented both. Fire is great for venting. I subscribed to the print edition of Madison's Capital Times right up to the end, but when it ceased daily print publication two years ago, I burned the last issue in protest. My Flickr friend Hugh torched his local paper, the LA Times, after its latest outrage -- and he made a video.

But I think Frost is right. The real threat to dead tree papers isn't fiery anger and outrage. It's ice cold indifference. I read the Capital Times almost every day of my adult life (and its competitor, the Wisconsin State Journal, almost as often). Sadly, now that the Cap Times lives mainly on the Web, I rarely go there anymore. In print, it had a great, scrappy history. It had a soul, and a role in my life. On the internet it's a very small fish in a very big sea of data, and as I navigate this ocean of information, the Cap Times rarely shows up on my radar (maybe occasionally on my Twitter feed). It's almost as inaccessible to me as that paper frozen in the ice of Lake Mendota which I photographed a couple years ago. I'm not indifferent, but much of the world is, and has moved on. That's the cold reality.

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