Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Death of Newspapers

Much has been said and written in recent months about the inevitable death of the newspaper.
A few high profile closings seem to be a harbinger of things to come.
There are those that might argue that it's no great loss. What's the difference if you get news online or if you read it in a traditional newspaper?

A few months ago I bought a newspaper on ebay from 1737. I received it in the mail and immediately started pouring over its contents. It was remarkably durable for its age and it took some time getting used to the olde englifh of the day. But once I got the hang of it I was glued to that thing until I read the whole thing cover to cover.
It was a London magazine called Gentleman's Magazine and just holding it, feeling the texture and the old scent always gives me a strange kind of thrill. To me it froze a day in time and preserved for me in 2009. Even more than a video clip or photograph from 1737 this gives me a far clearer image of life in those days. But it wasn't just the main contents and news. That I could read in a history book. It was all the side things, the small items printed here and there. Fascinating letters to the editor, poems and riddles sent in by readers, a weekly account of Hif Majeftys comingf and goingf as well as advertisements.
Imagine if historical pictures were all touched up so that only the intended subject were included and the backgrounds cropped out. All those street scenes in a Roman Vishniac black and white portrait of Krakow. The background buildings, signs, passersby and street scenes are perhaps more telling than the subject matter at the forefront.

Here's an example of of one item in the newspaper that is just astounding to 21st century eyes.

It is a run down of deaths in the city of London for the month of December 21 to Jan 25.
Of the 2,296 that dies 796 were under the age of 2 and 213 between 2 and 5!
Only 210 died past 70.
No this isn't a news story, just dry facts on page 62. It's the the street scene of a day in the life....
This is why the death of the Newspaper would be tragic.
Nothing preserves a day in time like the whole of the items that make it to print.



Anonymous dini said...

(Thanks for choosing london :)

June 09, 2009 12:31 PM  

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