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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dead Trees and Live Wires

There's nothing quite like reading a good newspaper the day after an election, and I was excited just anticipating the special election section that I hoped would still be part of my NY Times on Wednesday.  And there it was, or was it?  15 pages full of news.  A long article on the Obama campaign, analysis and results and pictures.  Reading galore that occupied me the entire way on an evening walk into Manhattan.  And then I could attack the Washington Post on my Kindle.  But where was the four page regional wrap-up of every single state's results?  Will those show up in tomorrow's paper when all of the results are actually in, or are they gone forever as being too yesterday's news that we've all long since found on the internet if we really really wanted to see it?

But then again, there was nothing quite like having a broadband connection on election eve to follow the results in ways I never could have imagined 10 or 20 years ago.  Go to and there's this nifty little map that just keeps updating itself, refresh it, refresh refresh refresh.  Once upon a time you had 3 networks, and if Walter Cronkite said "but we haven't gotten a lot of the vote from eastern Freedonia where Groucho's support is the biggest so Harpo's lead may or may not be safe..." we had to take his word.  Now every three minutes I can look for myself and see not just that it's 40% in Indiana but that means it's 2% in the northeast corner and 58% in central, and then I can look again.  And look again.  And look again.  And waste time looking again, and refreshing, and then I can switch over to looking at the senate map, or the house map, or the governor map, and then it's five more minutes which means the president map has surely refreshed again.  Pull down, refresh, pull down, refresh, spend an evening.

So who needs the dead trees when you have all those live wires?

But  yet, but yet...  It's a really really big world out there, and do any of us know all of the hot congressional races, or the interesting ballot measures?  The news is there for us to find, but maybe we still need the newspaper to have those four pages of fine type from each state in each region to tell us what we didn't even realize we needed to know.  Did you watch your Campaign 2008 coverage on Fox News or MSNBC?  It wasn't the same campaign on both of them.  It's so easy on the internet to cocoon with the like-minded and see what you want to see instead of what maybe you need to.  There's no commonality in the society and the culture, that fracturing of the audience into its little slices where we have 189 channels to choose from.

Several elections back, I purchased 2 copies of the NY Times.  This was back in the day when they still printed the paper in Manhattan and the first and very early edition would be available by 10PM from a vending machine in the lobby of the Times building on W 43rd St. in the heart of the theatre district, walked over and almost still wet from the presses.  And there would be so much election news the next day, so why not buy one paper at 10PM and read everything else, and then get another with a later deadline the next morning where I could just linger over the election coverage.  This year I could sit at my computer and read all the coverage of anything that I could possibly want from the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and the LA Times, and anywhere, really.  It's better, but it's worse.

This is a grim time for the print media.  The LA Times is taking the hatchet again with a newsroom half the size of what it was.  The Star Ledger in Newark is cutting its staff by 40%.  Gannett had a round of layoffs.  Oops there goes 20% of the review hole from my weekly Variety so it's internet or bust to keep up on movies and plays the way I used to in those halcyon days of May 2008.  Many papers had double-digit circulation drops though in some instances purposeful as they cut back their distribution area or tried to get rid of lower rent subscribers.  I worry about this, about not having that common source of news that hits 30% or 50% of the homes in a metropolitan area, of not having a newspaper to dig up Charlie Rangel's 4 rent-controlled apartments or the 95% of retired Long Island Rail Road employees getting disability.  

But dang that map is nifty.  Maybe if I go back now I can see if Coleman or Franken has harvested 2 more absentee votes.  But I so want those 4 pages of fine print tomorrow...