It seems to me, observing columnists with lifeless and soporific timbres, that someone is generalizing about the way “young” people obtain their news and that someone (I wonder who?) will learn a harsh lesson when the winds of change knock him on his pompous ass — particularly as he continues to serve up such stubborn “Back in my day!”-style folderol. (And does this man realize he is not writing for a newspaper, but an online publication?)
As someone who swings both ways between broadsheets and LCDs because of a bizarre personal relationship with paper and who is therefore relatively nonpartisan on this issue, I don’t see how any of what Garrison Keillor observes is sad. (Of course, the development of the coffeehouse from social nexus to surrogate office is very sad. But Keillor has been very specific about his target here.) I don’t see how reading a newspaper is any more intellectual or stylish an exercise than playing chess in the park. One simply does it, without giving a damn about how one looks or how one is perceived. (Indeed, it takes a very self-absorbed person to compare a common act like reading a newspaper to that of a swordsman, while reprimanding others through an misfired attempt at wit that reveals passive-aggressive diffidence.) The hope, of course, of any media consumer is to find something substantial (at least as it pertains to the consumer), but then one can find things of substance from multiple conduits (yes, even YouTube!). And who is Keillor to judge what causes another person joy or what gives them substance? Just because he can’t grasp the way that others get their news online doesn’t mean that he should dismiss those who can.
Keillor does have a certain point about paper in general. But reports of paper’s death have been greatly exaggerated. The paperless office isn’t coming anytime soon. To rely upon empiricism (like Keillor), I observe “young” people on the subway reading articles that they have printed out at work.
The free flow of information is doing just fine. (The fiscal health and job security of newspapers, nicht so macht.) It’s the crusty barnacles who cling to their partisan scows, paper or digital, who are tarnishing the finish.
© 2007, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.