November 6, 2008

Is this the one reason we need paper newspapers?

WaPo's Hank Stuever says:
Hi everyone. I just fought my way into the Post building on 15th Street -- there is a huge mob out there wanting to buy copies of today's paper as a souvenir. Somehow they are not content to stand at the window and gaze admiringly on our new flat screens in the lobby showing our WaPo Media family of web sites.

In: Newspapers!

Seriously, you could probably get a few bucks for your copy, if you're done with it, if you are cool enough to read the actual paper. Of course, some hipster who looks like Mac Guy could go out there and suggest to this crowd that they could just bookmark a web page and save it for posterity! On their 3g iPhone! If so, I hope they pummel him to death.
I don't know what Hank Stuever looks like, but I'm picturing this:



And I'm assuming he writes out letters to loved ones longhand, because if he's emailing and IM-ing, they're just going to have a digital file-folder on some cold, sad hard drive.

IN THE COMMENTS: Pogo writes:
Several years ago I was reading about researchers and archivists who were worried about the lack of permanence embedded in modern technology.

Things written with pencil and paper last a really long time. We auction off the original manuscript scroll for Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road' and search for copies of a first edition novel, signed.

Historians have discovered to their horror that electroinc data fades quickly, or becomes impossible to use because the hardware that created it no longer exists. Floppy discs, for example.

The tyranny of the modern affects voting in real time as well. Paper ballots can be scrutinized. Electronic ones fail to be recorded, are easily manipulated, and can be erased in a flash.

High tech communication is alot like writing in sand on the beach.

I am no luddite, but my conservative philosophy extends even here. Mocking letters to loved ones written in longhand betrays the hubris of the modern, who do not see how evanescent they have become, how easily they disappear, like so many electrons.

I have some cold, sad hard drives that died and cannot be read. What they contained is now forever lost. So, too IMs and e-mails.

Similarly, with one small error by some Google techie, this blog can disappear completely and irretrievably.

It's one thing to believe that building your house on a rock means it will last forever, but quite another to build it on sand, thinking it makes no difference at all, that the house on the rock is just for laughable squares in cheap and ill-fitting suits.

36 comments:

Ron said...

Ah, but in the future, your own personal hologram of Obama will come out of your watch! It will remind you that you'll lose your health care if you don't eat your broccoli.

The Drill SGT said...

If anybody wants to stop by, they can dig yesterday's first section of the WaPo out of my trash.

As I posted on the other thread, it's already started. Today's WaPo. Russia issued a warning to Obama not to deploy defensive missiles in Eastern Europe. These would protect against Iranian blackmail of Europe and eventually an over the pole shot against the US, but I doubt they will help against a FOB attack.

Given that like everything else Obama is on both sides of the issue (e.g. I support the missile shield, but will cut development of those unproven missiles...) who knows what he will do.

John Z. said...

You can't wrap fish in web pages either.

The Drill SGT said...

actually out of the recycle bin :)

The Drill SGT said...

I don't wrap many fish, but they also work for litter boxes :)

AllenS said...

Newspapers are great for starting a fire in the wood stove. I buy the weekly New Richmond News when I need more paper.

Pogo said...

Several years ago I was reading about researchers and archivists who were worried about the lack of permanence embedded in modern technology.

Things written with pencil and paper last a really long time. We auction off the original manuscript scroll for Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road' and search for copies of a first edition novel, signed.

Historians have discovered to their horror that electroinc data fades quickly, or becomes impossible to use because the hardware that created it no longer exists. Floppy discs, for example.

The tyranny of the modern affects voting in real time as well. Paper ballots can be scrutinized. Electronic ones fail to be recorded, are easily manipulated, and can be erased in a flash.

High tech communication is alot like writing in sand on the beach.

I am no luddite, but my conservative philosophy extends even here. Mocking letters to loved ones written in longhand betrays the hubris of the modern, who do not see how evanescent they have become, how easily they disappear, like so many electrons.

I have some cold, sad hard drives that died and cannot be read. What they contained is now forever lost. So, too IMs and e-mails.

Similarly, with one small error by some Google techie, this blog can disappear completely and irretrievably.

It's one thing to believe that building your house on a rock means it will last forever, but quite another to build it on sand, thinking it makes no difference at all, that the house on the rock is just for laughable squares in cheap and ill-fitting suits.

bearbee said...

Keep your newspapers, with or without bird crap, to use in your fireplace should you have one, or to sell to other to use in their fireplaces.

The energy crisis, seemingly forgotten with the drop in oil price, is NOT over and paper as fuel could come to good use when energy - oil, ng - prices resume upward and heating costs soar.

Ron said...

You can't wrap fish in web pages either.

This will be the Erma Bombeck-like title of Althouses Internet humor book! (with photos!)

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

On the shore a bat, or possibly an umbrella, disengaged itself from the shrubbery, causing those nearby to recollect the miseries of childhood.

-- from “The Object-Lesson” by Edward Gorey

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

...hologram of Obama... remind[ing] you [to] eat your broccoli *

Holy Obamamommygram, Bidenman!


*Ron (the commenter) rules. Hands down funniest.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron said...

Ron's Rick got RickRolled by ~Ron!

Meade said...

by Ron... who rules.

Bissage said...

Sorry I deleted that, guys.

MUST...ENGAGE...BRAIN

RRrRRrRAaaAAaGgGGhhh!!!

Meade said...

Ron needs a newpaper like a fish riding a bicycle needs kitty litter in its birdcage.

Ron said...

If I rule, who is this dusky usurper who takes my throne Jan 20? W gave me an extra Button so we can toss some megatons around for the holidays and to welcome the new administration with several spiffy new foreign adventures...Duck and Cover, kids!

Meade said...

"Sorry I deleted that, guys."

Aw, come on Bissage man. We were on a Ron roll.

Meade said...

"...Jan 20?..."

Wrong throne, Ron.

Ron said...

Ah! That explains the lack of rolls for Ron or for Rick for that matter!

Ron said...

Now that she helped get into office, can Scarlett Johansson be Obama's Marilyn?

Meade said...

Alright. I'd better go get some work done. I'll check back in for more hijinks and hilarity on my next coffee break (though you might call it abject slacking).

Bissage said...

Ron's Rick Rock 'n' Rolled!

mrs whatsit said...

That's the worst reason to buy a hard copy of a newspaper that I've ever heard. Newsprint is designed to be temporary. Digital data archives may not be reliable, but newsprint is far worse. Unless specially treated, in a year or two it will yellow. In five it will crumble. In ten or twenty, unless properly preserved, it will be gone.

Meade said...

Yeah. Good thing the Founders backed up the Declaration onto an external hard drive so it could be properly hung in the Smithsonian.

Pogo said...

My grandfather used an old wire recorder in the 1950s at work. When he died a few years ago, I took the old machine home with me and amazingly the damned thing still worked.

It was passing strange to hear him in his 40s, dictating a letter, and even laughing at one point.

We are all ephemera to a degree.

Hey said...

The idea that hard drives are "unreadable" is specious. A crashed drive can be easily resurrected, it just involves a bit of specialised time and equipment. It's not cheap, but it's not hard.

Tapes from the Challenger were resurrected, after blowing up high in the atmosphere and then corroding in seawater for a few years. Don't try to BS me with the idea that you can get your data out.

Digital media does break down after a while, and if one wants to ensure that copies are kept, then a regular archival process needs to be implemented, but it's neither hard nor especially expensive. If you want to be able to read floppies, just keep an older computer around. It sounds like some archivists are pressuring for higher budgets, just as some soon to be justly unemployed journalists are trying to save their buggy whip factory.

Tim Windsor said...

I'm concerned that the more ink-stained of the news fraternity are taking the wrong message from Wednesday's extraordinary sales.

Hint: it wasn't about the papers.

The people buying papers Wednesday had an emotional connection with Barack Obama, not the paper. They used the paper as a permanent, undeniable record of the moment. Look how many people you can find in flickr posing with the paper, in the mirror image of a hostage photo taken to prove the captive was still alive on a particular day. The paper better serves this purpose than a print-out of a web page. It’s more real, it’s cheap, and it is easily portable through time.

More here:
http://timwindsor.com/2008/11/05/why-people-had-to-have-a-newspaper-today-and-what-does-that-tell-us-about-a-business-model/

Pogo said...

"It's not cheap, but it's not hard."

Sure, with unlimited funds spent to recover dead hard drives, and unlimited time to spend on it, easy peasey japanesy!

And I'll just store all those old computers with all the differing types of drives (Zip, CD, floppy, old floppy, laser disc, cassette, etc etc.) in my endless storeroom full of obsolete technology.

What could be simpler!

rhhardin said...

It's one thing to believe that building your house on a rock means it will last forever, but quite another to build it on sand, thinking it makes no difference at all, that the house on the rock is just for laughable squares in cheap and ill-fitting suits.

Calculation means rocks.

Pundit Joe said...

I wouldn’t want a paper hardcopy. But, please don’t wish me beaten to death for it. Perhaps a nice cream soda and some elderberry pie w/ice cream would calm your rage? Mmmmm - pie! lol

I have reached a point where I no longer want a lot of stuff that takes up physical space. I just want the information it represents. For example, I have a stack of papers from the first Gulf War, but I never have gone back to review them because it would be a bit of a bother. They are not portable –it’s a big box of papers. I cannot search them. I cannot easily extract the data to use in other ways. Basically, they just take up space. I want the information they contain, but I no longer want the physical items. I now feel that way about a lot of things.

There are exceptions of course, such as items of exceptional sentimental value, but an item can be lost or destroyed if it only exists as a single copy in meat space. (This is also a problem if you only keep a single digital copy. Folks, backup your data!) However, if you have all the information that object represents, you can then recreate it over and over again.

As for hardware and format issues with data storage – this is being addressed. Archival format standards are being developed and backup regimens will ensure the data is always accessible. It ain’t perfect yet, nothing ever is, but it is improving.

Sadly, we must qualify everything today lest we be accused of “mocking” handwritten letters and risk being murdered on the street by violent Luddites (you know who you are). - My stated preference for digital data storage, in some circumstances, doesn’t mean I’m against other forms of storage. I do not endorse the “pummeling” of people to death for advocating for or against physical data storage. Yes, I like elderberry pie, but that in no way should be taken to mean that I do not like apple pie, cherry pie, peach pie, blueberry pie, or any other pie varieties.

John Burgess said...

The original article seems to be an appeal to scrap-bookers. That's pretty lame as a best reason for print media to survive.

Changing formats for digital media is a bother. I've 5-1/4" floppies for both PCs and Apple computers still lurking (gotta get around to transferring them!).

I love books and essentially everything printed on paper or even written on parchment. But that's more aesthetic than practical. Somewhere, I've newspapers reporting the Kennedy assassination and Armstrong's walking on the Moon. Those are nice, as collectables, but useless when it comes to quickly finding information.

I do appreciate that by going through those paper copies I can find the ephemera of those particular days (what was on sale at the grocery or department stores, prices of new cars, the idle chatter of the chattering classes). I guess that's similar to the pleasure of opening a dictionary or encyclopedia and seeing where it takes you.

How about if we just acknowledge that hard and digital media serve different purposes?

Akiva said...

It you want to see web history, check out archive.org and the wayback machine there.

blake said...

The idea that hard drives are "unreadable" is specious. A crashed drive can be easily resurrected, it just involves a bit of specialised time and equipment. It's not cheap, but it's not hard.

The guy I buy my computers from, whose main income comes from restoring failed hard-drives (and who is the guy other recovery specialists call when they have a really hard problem), would disagree with you.

Hard drives fail for a lot of reasons; some of those make the data unrecoverable.

As for newspaper crumbling, does anyone remember that dump they examined in (Wisconsin? Minnesota?) where they said the diapers had disintegrated just fine but the newspapers lived on?