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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Printer's Devils

The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium—that is, of any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.
Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980), Understanding Media (1964)

Many of us feel uneasy about the purchase of the Barnstable Patriot by the omnivore chain, Ottaway News. As a fellow inky wretch, I liked the ‘over the shop’ ambience of the Patriot’s second floor newsroom, reminiscent of The Front Page, as opposed to the Cape Cod Times’ newsroom which resembles a medium security prison with some work furlough available to reporters. Indeed, Porcupine enjoyed bumping into the intrepid Ed Maroney, out and about, with an actual and skeptical knowledge of Cape Cod, its history, and its issues, rather than a newly minted journalism degree and a map with bright crayon pictures from the Chamber of Commerce to try to find a story, so typical of the young and under experienced Times reporters.

Orleans’ paper,
Cape Cod Voice, felt the same loss, as evidenced by their story here. Of course, as one of the very few remaining Cape papers out of the clutches of big MSM, Seth Rolbein and Dan Hamilton are perhaps trembling like a ripe virgin when the fleet docks for shore leave. (Porcupine would like to apologize here for choking a cynical laugh when informed that there would be a new newspaper started some 7 years ago – while their point of view is abysmal, their content, editing and graphics have been top-notch, and they have achieved a deserved success with their enterprise).

Impressed with their story on the demise of a fellow paper, Porcupine sent the Voice this letter:

I read your obituary of the Barnstable Patriot, and agree with your conclusions. Its reporting staff, excellent though it may be, will be hard pressed to maintain its newsroom and editorial Independence as part of the Ottaway chain. It's like expecting Dunkin' Donuts to buy Flemings [note: a local Orleans coffee house and watering hole], but not have any change in the ambiance and product - gradually, individuality will be marginalized and 'economies of scale' will 'force' greater homogenization. The weeklies are right to tremble as the lion roars.

However, the future of the independent voice does not lie in the world of the actual paper; rather, it lies in the world of the virtual one.

Cape Cod Today, the Cape's virtual paper, already has a stable of 20 bloggers, and other reporters, which are regularly scooping the actual papers and writing the stories which they are not willing to touch. Indeed, two sessions of the Barnstable Town Council have been devoted to the Blogosphere and its dissemination of information.

We no longer need to buy ink by the barrel when we can buy distribution by the byte. A free and uncensored voice will not vanish from Cape Cod; it will merely morph into a new and challenging form.

In reply, Porcupine received a request for a real name and address. When I admitted I was actually called William Cobbett, and wrote under the name of Porcupine – a common practice among authors – and identified myself as an Orleans resident, I received this reply from the Voice:

Thanks for the reply. We do not publish letters under assumed or "blogger" names or handles, so if you can supply your real name we would be delighted to publish your letter. Thanks, -dan

Mr. Rolbein, Mr. Hamilton – you look like gentlemen polishing the chrome on a DeSoto, wondering why Blogfather Walter Brooks is cackling as he speeds by in his hybrid - quite a coup in the point of view department for an old Wobblie and newspaper man. The point of my letter is that media is changing; that there are 1.9 million blogs being tracked by Technocrati, and that the way that information and opinion is disseminated has changed irrevocably.

I will miss the smell of ink on my hands when the last of the papers is gone.

Final Note: I hope you will take time to visit The Conservative Progress - Rantings of a Progressive Conservative over on my sidebar. It is written by a conservative Alabama college student, and in tone reminds me of my friend, Louisiana Libertarian, written by another Gulf Coast college student. The 'Rent My Blog' program is a way to give exposure to worthwhile blogs, and I hope you will check it out.


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