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And Now, A Domestic Interlude: On The Importance of Print Media

Welcome to Sady’s Gentleman Associate Theater! This is a feature in which we discover that Sady and her gentleman associate have been living in the same apartment in the same terrible section of Queens with the same lack of air conditioning for about three months now and have settled into that phase of the Living Together Adventure where they drink lots of beer and talk about their various ideological differences!


This week: The Importance of Print Media, and whether the Internet and/or Sady are destroying civilization as we know it!

SADY: It’s just. Whenever I read something that says the Internet is destroying print media or whatever. I want to punch a hole in the wall.

GENTLEMAN ASSOCIATE: But it is! It is destroying print media!

SADY: Maybe it is destroying print media. But maybe, also, it is salvaging the idea of media as connection and community! There are all these voices now that are livening up or shifting or challenging the discourse, and without the Internet they would not have access! So if print media is suffering maybe that’s because it couldn’t keep up with the needs of its readers.

GENTLEMAN ASSOCIATE: Good point, Ayn Rand!

SADY: All I am saying is that more voices are being heard! More conversations are being had! Conversations that are not bougie-ass NYT things about how you can’t Tweet at Milk and Honey any more or how hard it is to live on a six-figure salary in New York or how the economy means your daughter will only get one pony for Christmas or whatever.

GENTLEMAN ASSOCIATE: Yes, but with the Internet, you only have the conversations that you want to have. You only hear what you want to. You’re not participating in a national conversation as such. There’s no community!

SADY: No, there are communities, and lots of them, which is great if your community is marginalized or excluded or inadequately represented or addressed by “the conversation” as it stands. Because “the conversation” has historically been straight, white, male, and middle to upper-class.

GENTLEMAN ASSOCIATE: But what about picking up the local paper, and seeing what is on the front page, and conversing with the people around you about what is in the paper? Even if what you are saying is “the paper sucks,” there is a unifying thread. There is centrality.

SADY: Even if what you are saying is “the paper consistently fails to cover the issues that affect me and my community?” There is value in reading the paper if the paper is not relevant to your needs as a person who seeks to be informed?

GENTLEMAN ASSOCIATE: Yes! Because it ties you to place! It creates a sense of where you are! It connects you to the people around you.

SADY: This is ridiculous. This is A RIDICULOUS THING THAT YOU ARE SAYING. The thing you are saying is that the front page of the New York Times could consist of NOTHING BUT PICTURES OF MAUREEN DOWD’S POOPS, and we would all still have to read it. Because it is The Paper.

GENTLEMAN ASSOCIATE: Okay, so… what do you know about what is going on in Afghanistan right now?

SADY: Not much! Maybe I should LOOK IT UP. On GOOGLE.

So, anyway. We let it drop. Then, last Thursday, the New York Times ran a story about how “hipsters” now have “pot bellies” if they are dudes! (It is a rebellion from the PERFECT BODY of President Barack H. “Ab Force One” Obama, apparently.) So here is the conversation I had this morning:

GENTLEMAN ASSOCIATE: So, you know that conversation we had about print media? I think this pretty conclusively proves that I WIN.

SADY: Oh, God.

Dear New York Times, I have an idea for your Style section! “Girls: Longer Hair Than Dudes, Most of the Time!”

Oh, GOD.

“White People! They Are In All The Hottest Clubs!”


  1. LaurenW wrote:

    Nice! Also, I dont think you can also separate the fact of global warming and the knowledge of how much paper is wasted in order to engage the community…The balance should be that print media has to evolve into something that is more valued for it being in its material form…But I dont think the digital media is killing print media, its just forcing us to change how we use it..and both are flawed in terms of representation and access.

    Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  2. belmanoir wrote:

    I hate it when people talking about the Internet is destroying print media too. My VERY FAVORITE is when college professors and/or people who have written articles for the NYT Book Review complain about book review blogs. GRRRR.

    Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  3. William wrote:

    The conflation of medium and content around this topic makes me crazy, and the GA is doing it here.

    The New York Times sells maybe 1.5m Sunday papers. They get 20m visitors a month to their web site. The Internet has drastically increased their reach, while lowering their costs of production. These days they're a web site that happens to print some stuff out. As technology improves and old habits die, the ratio will tip more and more in favor of bits.

    Newsprint was shot through the heart when Craigslist came on line. It's taking a while to fall over, but fall it will. Continuing to confuse journalism with web-fed offset presses is just clinging to the body as it falls.

    Also, I think your fella's notion of "the local paper" is the degenerate case. In most large cities, there has never been just one until recently. Here San Francisco in the early 1900s, for example, there were 5 major dailies. And that's not counting the many smaller papers devoted to particular languages, religions, or interests.

    The Internet may kill the one remaining for-pay daily paper in most towns, but it's enabling a return to the riot of voices that newspapers carried in their heyday.

    Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  4. LexiconLuthor wrote:

    Now, thanks to your blog, MY gentleman associate knows I snort if I laugh too hard.

    Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink
  5. Sady wrote:

    @William: You're dead right that it's dangerous to confuse journalism with the specific means of printing and distributing that journalism. Too often people conflate PRINT with WRITING, and it drives me up the wall. I also think it's true that newspapers – especially newspapers in major urban centers – have always been plural, and there have always been newspapers designed to reach specific communities and cover the issues that affect them. (The Awl just had a really interesting thing on the "Desi Times," for example, and when I go out in Queens there are numerous newspapers written in what I assume to be Greek, as well as lots of Spanish-language newspapers. And, even in Columbus, OH, there was the Gay Paper, the College Kid Paper, the Paper Your Parents Got – otherwise known as "The Paper" – etc.) The Internet may be fragmenting discourse, but you're right to point out that discourse has always been fragmented and the illusion of a coherent, centered discourse has always been a product of (a) privilege – specifically, the privilege of not seeing or not recognizing as legitimate the many conversations around your own, or (b) declining revenues – only the paper with the most affluent readership survives. The idea of The Paper – the ONE paper that somehow manages to cover EVERY relevant issue within a community – can only REALLY exist in very small, very homogenous towns. And even then, there are probably some folks being left out.

    Which is not to say that The Paper (or: The Papers, since I always prefer honest plurality to the illusion of the central or universal) is not very important. Other folks have pointed out to me that The Papers, specifically as they are tied to place, have been the best tool for reining in local corruption. And that's true. I still think there will be a need for local media even after the internet and its cheap, global means of distribution take over. No matter what my favorite ideas are, no matter what information I seek out, I still need to know what's going on in town.

    The issue, I think, is how to monetize. The era of Internet-as-Anarchist-paradise or (in the Libertarian view) Internet-as-Wild-West is still so recent that we can all remember it, and vaguely resent having to pay for content (since that's antithetical to the Internet's initial promise of limitless free information), so finding a way to make it pay will be problematic. The issue is that web-based news outlets NEED to pay, in order to (a) attract the best writers, and (b) finance good reporting. There's also the whole pay-per-click payment system, which rewards people for getting traffic, and that is a very democratic system of determining the value of a story – but there's something to be said for the story that ISN'T flashy or sexy or immediately appealing, that your paper pays you to do because your editor believes it to be important. And without sufficient revenue, you can't finance someone to do a story that matters whether or not it gets linked to or clicked on. So that is worrisome.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  6. I wonder, does Internet media become important if it looks all newspaper-y, with a well-designed layout, and, like, serifs?

    IN OTHER WORDS I think the new layout is snazzy.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 2:39 am | Permalink
  7. havocthecat wrote:

    Oh, Sady. Your conversations with your Gentleman Associate sound like many of my conversations with Mr. Havoc.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 5:50 am | Permalink
  8. elegantcurmudgeon wrote:

    Following on softestbullet’s comment a) digging the new layout, and congrats on the launch of your own domain. This is must-have civilizational development. b) So if “you” are “killing” print media (singlehandedly!), does your gentleman associate have an answer to the question of why web media continues to organize its presentation in largely print-media terms? (For example: still has “sections” as if you could peel one off and let your e-puppy e-poop on it. Even though “sections” are not really the most effective way to manage this mass of online content).

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 7:59 am | Permalink

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  1. My love letter to Sady : on Monday, August 17, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    […] of thought and not a substitute for it. I think your discussion with your Gentleman Associate about the importance of print media is very smart and fall-down funny. I like your […]