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Unplugged Media Remain Relevant
Published on Thursday, January 19, 2006 by the Madison Capital-Times (Wisconsin)
Unplugged Media Remain Relevant
by Dave Zweifel

No one disputes the proposition that the Internet has had an impact on print newspapers and other traditional media in America.

The young, in particular, are going to the Web for their news and often to the Web editions of their favorite newspapers. We estimate that our online edition is being perused by 20,000 people Monday through Friday and a bit less on Saturday.

I, for one, have become convinced that the Web is here to stay and we, as a newspaper, need to continue making our Web edition a viable place for readers and advertisers.

Nevertheless, I cheered a recent column written by Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, who has his own ideas about print newspapers versus the Internet. Allow me to pass on a few excerpts:

"Stop reading for a moment. Flip this over. Notice that the backside of your newspaper is utterly unencumbered by cords, plugs, telephone jacks or USB connections. To hell with Bluetooth technology. We were wireless long before wireless was cool.

"Marvel at our paper-thin technology, each page 40 times skinnier than an iPod Nano. Take it anywhere. Take it to the bathroom. To bed. On an airplane. When the flight attendants hustle through the cabin shutting down Blackberrys, Razrs, Vaios, Shuffles and Palm Pilots, your Miami Herald keeps on working.

"We're particularly dependable during hurricane season. When devices dependent on Florida Power and Light, Comcast or BellSouth went down the moment a live oak crashed into the wires and stayed down for weeks the Miami Herald still functioned. Your newspaper may be the only communication device in the high-tech age that operates with candlelight.

"Consuming the Miami Herald, the paper version anyway, comes without risk that a virus will invade your computer, wipe out your unfinished novel and infect everyone on your e-mail list. Annoying ads do not pop up unexpectedly in the middle of a Herald story. We nail them down in the margins and vanish them from most section fronts.

"We don't hijack your home page. I solemnly promise that while you read this column, I will not surreptitiously transmit your credit card information to Russian mobsters in Minsk.

"You can be confident, as your child scans the comic pages, she won't get lured into a Web site featuring the gang rape of vixen virgins. ...

"Newspaper circulation is either flat or down and faltering among the proudly oblivious young. Apparently, we're not nearly as cool as an Xbox.

"For pocket change, this past year, we sent reporters culling through giant stacks of government records, uncovering all sorts of nefarious deals involving your tax money. We covered all the big games. We did books, movies, plays, dance, art, business, travel, gambling. The real estate bubble.

"For a quarter or two, our reporters ran out to plane crashes on your behalf. We talked to crime victims. We nabbed lying politicians. We sent reporters wading through the floodwaters in New Orleans. Our reporters got shot at in Iraq. And mugged in Pompano Beach.

'If someone just now invented a device that managed all this for a couple of quarters, they'd be hailed as a genius. They'd be plastered across the cover of Wired magazine. And best of all: no batteries necessary."

Dave Zweifel is editor of The Capital Times. E-mail to: 

© 2006 Capital Times


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