Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On Newspapers

In a desperate, if misguided, attempt to bolster subscriptions, The Philadelphia Inquirer drops a free paper on my front walk each Sunday.  At least I think that's the motive.  Who knows.  No one from the Ivory Tower has let me in on why the free newspaper appears.  Maybe the paper delivery guy likes me. 

I have to admit I have used most of the papers as fire starters.  This past Sunday, I actually attempted to read it.  And I found that I couldn't.  I didn't have the patience to flip through the pages.  The text was too small and I had already heard or read most of what was in the paper.  Sitting at the dining room table I came to the stunning realization that I have moved so far from the media that made me want to be a writer and the my habit as a 20 something of reading 3 papers a day that I am basically unable to figure out what to do with a newspaper in my hand.

Then tonight come the stories about Buzz Bissinger losing it on Will Leitch of Deadspin while they were both on the Costas HBO show.  Bissinger is about the best writer going these days and I can't imagine him ever writing a word I would not want to read, but the man went nuts on Leitch, basically accusing him of dumbing down the written media through writing a blog.  Nothing Leitch writes is ever dumbed down, and Buzz was way off base here but the incident does give one pause.

I'll admit that I think it's news websites, blogs, personal websites, RSS streams and IMs that have destroyed my ability to read a news paper.  I think on that point Bissinger is right.  But I won't say that the content is dumber.  It may be more narrow, but it's also far more accessible.  I can read what i want when I want to.  And I can link and search for similar or opposing thoughts about the same topic.  I can put a single article in the context of the many and I can do it on mt phone, at my desk at work, or even as we all have done with a paper, on the toilet.

Some of the best writers around are guys like Leitch, who do it from a perspective that is just different than the mainstream media.  Others are folks with day jobs who post blogs for friends, family or the world as a whole.  Some, I dare say, are as good as Bissinger.  A lot of the rest is crap, but then so much of what we read and have always read in newspapers is crap too.

So I have to note the clay feet of one of my idols today and say that perhaps, in his fervent desire to hold onto the past, Bissinger has missed the talent of the present and the promise of the future.

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