Feeling a bit bookish today

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A few posts have popped out at me today in my RSS feeds, involving books and other print media. That, in and of itself, is a bit odd, since this blog post will never see actual print.

Sunday’s segment of 60 Minutes on NOLA and the partial demise of the Times-Picayune left me on the fence about newspapers going digital. Here’s the segment, online:

I have watched many local papers get thinner and thinner in my lifetime . At some point, many of them go to recycle by the time I reach the house from the mailbox. What is there is often recycled, as well – repeating some AP story that I saw online the day before. What’s left is a bunch of ads I didn’t really want or need.

On the other hand, I was happy to see that the Picayune remained in print 3 days a week. As I’ve said in the past, there is something to be said for the feel of paper and enjoying the news, sparse though it may be, over a cup of coffee. I still get the Sunday NYT and enjoy reading the best bits – Week in Review; the Magazine; and the Book Review. There’s something – well – Sundayish about it.

More importantly than my guilty pleasures, however, is that we still have a pretty large digital divide in the US. According to the video, fully 1/3 of the city of New Orleans is without internet access. Theirs is not just a want, it’s a need. Is having a paper only a few days a week enough? For me, that depends on the paper itself. one of the former editors complained that you couldn’t keep up journalistic standards with that infrequency. I think it is possible but it would be more geared toward thoughtful analysis, rather than quick hits of news. Frankly, given how much misinformation comes out when the press tried to jump on a story as it’s happening, I find the news more trustworthy, when they wait and get the story right.

I’m not sure how to find the happy medium. There is a need for quick news and that shouldn’t be restricted to those of us with high-speed internet. Libraries could be of use here, if they could obtain enough funding to serve people in underserved areas. They could also serve as gathering places for community, while providing the information to make better community decisions. Michel Scott of newgeography.com has an excellent piece on this concept:

Ray Oldenburg, author of The Great Good Place, coined the term “third place” to describe any environment outside of the home and the workplace (first and second places, respectively) where people gather for deeper interpersonal connection. Third places include, for example, places of worship, community centers, and even diners or pubs frequented by the “locals.”…

…Libraries and bookstores clearly are long-time ‘third places’ That shouldn’t be a surprise, given that books serve as the lingua franca of new ideas. Notice, though, that these establishments frequently provide coffee bars, meeting rooms, Wi-Fi access, public computer terminals, and other amenities. They serve as accessible retreats for community groups and clubs, offices for transitioning job-seekers or home-based business owners, logical meeting places for children’s literacy organizations, havens for latchkey kids, and bases of operation for homeless men and women as they try to reintegrate into the community. These are the features, probably more so than the rows of books and racks of periodicals, which grant libraries and bookstores their ‘third places’ status.

I do hope that we, as a society, manage to address these challenges successfully.

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