The Internet has most certainly become a crucial aspect of our culture in the 1990s. Email is, according to many, one of the greatest communication inventions as it has enabled many to communicate with people and places that were at one time, unthinkable and unreachable. America On-Line has taken on a popularity and an interest that comes close to the excitement the invention of television must have caused for Americans back in their day. The Internet has become all inclusive: anyone having anything to say, any company wishing to advertise are all a part of it. Industries and individuals alike have developed themselves through this tool. And anybody who is anybody has a .com or .aol after their name. It is the new tradition.
One of the recently surging industries to become more involved with (or devoured by, rather) the Internet has been print media, particularly newspapers. This industry has also succumbed to pressure to move with the rapid flow of technology. The use of print news and the newspaper as we know it, is quickly fading into a distant memory--a scary and troubling fact that further testifies to the idea that tradition is quickly escaping Americans as an important value.
As an aspiring journalist myself, I have great concerns as to whether or not there will be any newspapers working in print anymore in a few years. I do not seem to be moving with the flow of technology. I am not sure that ideologically, I want to or that it is the right thing for Americans as whole, despite the amazing employment opportunities in this growing trend. The idea that computers and technology are taking over our lives and replacing people with things has become a cliche, but it has not disappeared, it is very much the reality of our world today. The news industry is just the latest to fall victim to this stunning truth.
Time Magazine reported this week about the overwhelming amount of information available to people because of the growing number of sources, such as the Internet. Clearly, some sources will be more useful to people than others and, according to Elizabeth Gleick, it has become increasingly difficult for the newspaper to maintain its reputation as a solid and valuable source of news distribution in light of the increasing online news information system and the growing availability of computers and the Internet to the general public.
It seems to matter less and less each day in the machine world that newspapers have been around for many years and that their use has been valued and important. Or that journalists have taken their jobs seriously. There is a personal involvement that is obvious, that is penetrating and touching when one reads a newspaper. This completely disappears with the onset of information online.
I can't picture myself rolling out of bed in the morning having a cup of coffee and grabbing today's front page on my Macintosh. Or leafing through my favorite sections by pressing up and down keys on a computer keyboard. Or erasing my mistakes on the crossword puzzle by pressing delete over and over again. There is something invaluable and indescribable about holding the actual product in your hand (and having it not weigh seventy-five pounds), whipping it out in the middle of the day, on a train ride or a bus ride or to refer to it, cutting an article out when you think it has some certain value to it, or saving it (long enough until it gets crinkly and really yellow) to show your children some of the most amazing events of our time and how the newspapers, how journalists recorded it.
This summer, I interned at a magazine in New York. Part of my daily ritual would be to buy my breakfast at Au Bon Pain and eat it while reading a newspaper that I bought at the newsstand off the subway. To me, that's tradition: eating breakfast while reading the Metro section. One day a woman with whom I worked, looked at me, seemingly puzzled by what I was doing. She said, "I can't believe that you still read the paper. Time has changed, just read it on the computer like everyone else." I am only 21 years old, and I have never felt so ancient as I felt that morning. But it has never felt natural to do it the "new" way, and as long as there is still a print world, I'll be part of that tradition.
Nancy Raine Reyes' column appears on alternate Saturdays.
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