To give you a reference for my roots, in one of my first official published forays into writing, I bashed technology. [Note 1: This was before I found my place in writing about music.] I proposed what lunacy it was to jump on the bandwagon of the fabulous dot matrix printers — printers that, at best, offered NEAR letter quality printing — when the good ole typewriter offered a far superior output. In essence, a dot matrix printer was only approximating something that already did a far better job. [Note 2: For you audiophiles out there, this is comparable to analog vs. digital recording and the timeworn but valid argument that something is always lost in digital.]
I also championed the use of pen and paper over a word processor — computers were not in the equation yet, at least not on my budget. Can you say old school? Go ahead, I can take it. It's a fair call. But know this, I do not doggedly cling to antiquated practices out of ignorance or fear, when the new thing becomes markedly better and is proven to surpass the old, then and only then will I embrace it.
Unfortunately, the same mindset doesn't hold true for a majority of my “old school” peers. As the world shifted from hard copy to virtual, I was told, “We had our time, this is no longer our world, it belongs to a younger generation, now.” That’s neither carrying the torch nor embracing the new, it’s just quitting.
I call that mindset nothing short of irresponsible because with the old guard gone — or rapidly fleeing — there was no one left under which budding writers could apprentice. There was no one to lead, no one to learn from, no one to pass along the practices, traditions, and ethics.
Consequently, blogs started sprouting like weeds in the vast and verdant fields of journalism — “weed: a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants” (definition courtesy of Apple’s built-in dictionary, version 2.2.1) — and suddenly everyone with online access discovered they had a voice. Individuals who had never constructed a cohesive sentence, let alone a paragraph, essay, or news story, now had a platform. Journalistic integrity was quickly replaced by personality and flair, quite literally, the new standard was founded on style over substance.
Do you want to know why you rarely feel satisfied with news and entertainment anymore? It’s because writing has become junk food, it fills an immediate need, but it does not have the quality required to nourish and sustain — yes we need to properly feed the mind as well as the body in order for it to thrive. We don’t sit down and partake of our information in a formal (focused) setting, we are constantly grabbing snippets of it while perpetually on the run. Unfortunately, that’s also how the stories are produced . . . in haste!
But maybe, just maybe, that’s a good thing?
Dot matrix printers were merely a step in the evolution of something that ultimately became far superior to the typewriter. Similarly, dot matrix journalism is merely a step in the evolution of writing. Even being “old school,” I never quite adopted the pretense that reporting was supposed to be objective. I believe the best, most engaging and meaningful accounts are subjective. Style should not exceed substance. But then again, substance should not preclude style. Balance is the future, vibrant, engaging chronicles of events based in fact and delivered with panache. We’re not there yet, but I do believe we’re getting close. The best is yet to come.