Sunday, June 01, 2008

Old media on new media

Will the circle stay this broken?

A few days ago I received a message from someone at the state capital's only daily newspaper. The Sacramento Bee publishes a regional blog roundup in the Forum section of its Sunday edition. Gary Reed wanted me to know that he was considering my post on Fragile heterosexuality for inclusion in the June 1 roundup. Fine by me.

I picked up a copy of the Bee this morning and discovered that, sure enough, my blog post was there in print form. Therefore, of course, my post also exists in cyberspace, because the Bee has an on-line edition. I couldn't resist: I went to check out the on-line version of the print version of my original on-line blog post.

You still with me?

I love print media. I read voraciously, dispatching dozens of books every year (although it used to be hundreds back when I was younger and the books I read were thinner). I read lots of newspapers, too, although my students seem not to have heard of such things (and those newspapers keep getting thinner as electronic media nibble away at their circulation base).

However, I'm not sure print is the right medium for blog posts. A blog post is rather denatured after translation into hardcopy. For example, readers of the Bee will see a parenthetical remark near the beginning of my article:
(God, you see, hates immorality except in those instances where he expressly condones it.)
What is that all about? In print form it just lies there. However, the original version here on my blog has links to each of the last three words in the sentence. The blog reader who clicks on “expressly” will see the text of Exodus 21:2-7, wherein God offers instructions on managing slaves and notes that the offspring of a slave belong to the master. I linked “condones” to 1 Samuel 15:3, where God explicitly instructs Israel to commit genocide against the Amalekites, killing all men, women, children, and animals. Finally, “it” links to Numbers 31:15-18, wherein Moses passes along God's instructions to the Israelites to save for themselves the virgins of Midian. The first two cases clearly condone slavery and genocide, while the third smacks of rape.

All that is lost in the translation to print.

At the end of my original post I inserted a hilarious Goodie Bag video. Here's my original concluding paragraph:
The preservation of humanity demands that vigorous steps be taken to protect fragile heterosexuality. One potential remedy is the wide dissemination of training videos, such as this timely offering from Goodie Bag, titled Protecting and Maintaining Your Heterosexual House of Cards. It's aimed at young men because their straightness is apparently the most easily threatened. Watch and learn!
Now compare that to the Bee's print version:
The preservation of humanity demands that vigorous steps be taken to protect fragile heterosexuality. One potential remedy is the wide dissemination of training videos, … like one aimed at young men because their straightness is apparently the most easily threatened. Watch and learn!
Watch what? There's no embedded video. No link, of course, but no title either. No printed-out URL. Dead end.

We writers tend to kick and moan when editors lay their rough hands on our copy, however gentle the changes may be, but I do think I am making a legitimate point here. My blog post made the transition to print media only at the cost of a significant portion of its impact.

By the way, the on-line version of the print version of my on-line original did not have any of the links restored. Although I admit it was nice to see my blog post appear in the Sacramento Bee, I regret that the on-line edition of the newspaper did nothing to take advantage of the fact that it was possible to restore the links that were necessarily cut from the print version. The on-line edition of the Sacramento Bee is nothing more, in many respects, than an image of the print edition.

I wonder when they will wake up about that.

6 comments:

Jeff M. said...

If you look at the Bee's blogs even, you'll notice a dearth of hyperlinks compared to any average blog. Are the editors over there under some crazy notion that hyperlinks are somehow a potential breach of copyright? Or maybe to get a hyperlink placed one has to go to through some incredibly arduous bureaucratic rigmarole. And maybe the actual anchoring of the link falls on some overworked tech guy, and if you send him more than a few links requests per month he starts yelling at you or complaining to his boss.

It sure is a mystery.

Christopher said...

Hyperlinks may be seen as encouraging either spam or promotion of the undeserved. The mystery aside, though, I think this is an excellent insight into how print, in spite of its advantages, isn't the right medium for everything. And I say that as a guy who will defend print until his last breath. Blogs also allow for immediate and, in many cases, unmoderated and unedited, comments. This can be as much of an advantage as it is sometimes a disadvantage.

William said...

They butchered it IMHO. I think if they asked again, I'd decline.

Jeff M. said...

Just as a by the way, here is a bloggingheads that covers this topic:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11548

Blake Stacey said...

The New York Times has the same problem. It was particularly galling when their story was basically covering the way physicists act online.

dance said...

A tangential thing that drives me mad, not with the Sac Bee but all papers---when the Letters to the Editor section, reproduced online, fails to add a link to the article that the letter is about.