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Commentary & Opinion

Paul Elisha: On paper in the digital age

The poet Frank Bidart’s “Inauguration Day,” composed for President Barak Obama’s first Inaugural, began with these lines: “Staring out across America I see, since Lincoln, gunmen nursing fantasies of purity betrayed, dreaming to restore the glories of their blood and state.”  These words projected a hope of return to earlier times of repression and the glory of purity restored.  It’s a hope that obviously lingers for some.

With the advent of a new Inaugural in the offing, whether for President Obama or not, a new specter presents itself:  The dream of a new age of automated repression… of sparse language and expression… the digitally coded liquidation of thought, act and emotion, achieved via computerized technology.  For those born in and totally in synch with this new era of technical conception, the dizzying pace of its digital multi-tasking is a natural facet of their development.  For others, born to earlier times and cultures, the pace and its presentments spell a certain omen of doom.

But the nervousness of being unable to cope with new and confusing technology is miniscule, when compared with an even greater and more serious threat… the curtailment of printed copies of major news publications like Newsweek, whose owners have announced a changeover to an all-digital format, at the end of this year.  More than a new medium, readers who do not even possess the necessary equipment (and there are still thousands of these, among seniors) are simply to be eliminated as receivers of vital information.  An entire segment of actively knowledgeable populace will be consigned to uninformed oblivion.  Newsweek is but the first of a host of similar publications, now poised to follow suit.

The effects of this change are many and earth-shaking.  Seniors are not only a major segment of America’s most active determinants of state and local electoral systems but also of public policy.  They also make up a decisive percentile of the nation’s economy.  The rambunctiously ambitious Newsweek editor, Tina Brown has warned that bowing to the digital future was inevitable.  “You can’t turn back an inexorable trend,” she said.  True but it needn’t include the trashing of a vital segment of the population.

Now is the time for publishers of printed news media to be creative and retain mini-versions of their original magazines, in highly readable ‘Digest’ size.  Once America’s most votiferous population segment returns to a mind-mending menu of merit, the News Media moguls… and even Ms. Tina Brown…  will be glad they all listened to reason.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the views of this station or its management.