Where angels fear to tread (a great magazine editor runs screaming from the field):
As you may gather from the links above, I’ve subscribed to the New York Times! My friends know because I’m sending them articles like the ones above daily. Or posting them to Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve long thought the NYT is amazing. The best of the best. I thought that because every time I picked up a copy, which was very rarely, I would find at least two stories that were right up my alley; great reportage on things that matter to me, like art, art books, museums, cultural matters generally, politics (on the progressive or social side). I often felt it uncanny how the NYT would have an article so bang on. I felt tuned in, and turned on.
Now, reading the headlines daily (I get their Daily Briefing to my email inbox and then go to the full “paper” for the rest of the major stories and usually a quick scan through the Arts section) I find it much less interesting. There’s still something special about the NYT. It’s just a little less impressive as it’s becoming more familiar.
I guess the big news for me is really not about the NYT but that I’ve finally accepted that to be well-informed today, you have to get the news online, and for the most part, if you’re serious about it, pay for it.
Sort of… I see the Globe and Mail has instituted a paywall. I’m not going there, yet.
Digital media read differently. With the New York Times, for example, online there’s no longer a clearly defined daily edition. Stories may be featured for several days so if you read it daily, there’s an annoying redundancy, and if you don’t read it every day, you can’t be certain what’s current.
Sections are also more fluid. Web pages linked from side bars or footers offer “related” stories on an assortment of topics. When you’re finished one article, you’re as likely to flip to another topic area as stay with the business or arts section you were on. It’s like an invitation to ADHD.
Online, it doesn’t matter how big your digital viewing screen, the page is truncated. Text is too small or too big, runs off the page.
And much of your time is spent clicking and scrolling, basically wayfinding. It’s like being lost in the woods; you are hardly going to stop to take in the view when you don’t know where you are or how to get home.
In a print newspaper, you read bits here and there too, a headline here, a paragraph there, but you always have a sense, reinforced by your peripheral vision and the feel of the paper in your hands, of where you are, how much or little there is of that article, and where it fits in the editorial scheme of things, above the fold or below.
Online, “home” is just a metaphor. It might as well be a randomly selected page. They might call it a front page but it is not a front page. There is no prominent title/name, no heft as with a 13″ x 26″ piece of paper backed up with 50 to 100 or more solid pages of content, no table of contents.
Fundamentally, online, once you get there, there is no there there, as Gertrude Stein once quipped, there is no “whole” to be taken in at a glance, no fathomable project to begin, no sense of what completion would consist of, what you might get out of it.
Instead we have an unfathomnable, bottomless pit of more or less undifferentiated stuff casting around for a reason to be. I’m sorry, but we, the readers, cannot alone provide that reason. We look to newspapers to help us make sense of the world, as a tool that helps us formulate opinions, and ultimately make decisions.
No wonder, as Neil Thurman has found, people read on average 30 seconds of news online each day, compared to 40 minutes immersed in a newspaper. And no wonder somebody can dismiss it all as “fake” and, though it is puerile and ignorant, we are relatively powerless to contradict them. There IS something wrong with the news; it may not be the news itself so much as the failing digital media. All spectacle, you can call it what you want. It’s just a show.
Now, which is the best paper? For me, in order of quality, importance and scale; the New York Times, Guardian, Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press, Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, and our own very local Sioux Lookout Bulletin.
Here’s a great way to show a panel of authors, adjacent their books.
If this particular panel isn’t looking too cheery it could be because their host, the Toronto International Book Fair, held for the first time last fall, was in the process of imploding around them. Now it has been announced that it won’t be back.
“A larger expansion of the vendors and publishers on offer will be needed in order to sustain interest. Organizers intend to focus more on the international element of the fair next year as well.
“The downside to attending the event for multiple days is that after touring the show floor to see all the publishers and exhibitors, there isn’t much else to look at. There needs to be a larger amount of exhibits or activities to see and do to engage visitors. In addition, the set up of the various stages needs to be re-examined, as often throughout the day activities from one stage interfered with interviews and readings on others. Given that the Convention Centre is a large, open space, the sounds echoed and traveled across the show floor disturbing audiences and authors. All elements will likely be improved for next year. Organizers may also want to consider moving it to a different time of the year where the event calendar is not already so crowded.” – http://theroaminglife.com/inspire-toronto-international-book-fair-2014-day-2/
It was a big ambition, the kind of thing we need in today’s lachrymose economy.
But the plug has been pulled. Which means no opportunity to fix and grow. Too bad:
I’m very pleased to have been invited to be involved in the production of this new “literary” festival… described below in Quill & Quire magazine:
TINARS founder Marc Glassman to launch Toronto book fest in March
By Stuart Woods
January 6, 2014
What does the book launch of the future look like? Marc Glassman, artistic director of This Is Not a Reading Series, believes he has the answer. The former owner of Pages Books & Magazines (which closed in 2009) will present his vision with a series of events and readings to take place in Toronto this winter.
According to a press release, the Pages Festival + Conference, scheduled for March 13 to 15, will comprise “mainstage events,” in which authors will present their work to the public with multimedia support, and a series of daytime seminars, workshops, and panels touching on diverse topics, from “the impact of new technologies on literature to the maintenance of copyright and the shifting role of illustration in ebooks.” Events will take place at the Randolph Academy Theatre and the Tranzac Club, with programming details being announced over the next five weeks.
“As with TINARS, the onstage events will revolve around a creative collaboration between the Pages festival and writers,” Glassman tells Q&Q in an email. “We suspect that book tours in the future will look like our events. Headlining writers will inevitably work with musicians, video artists, dancers, actors, comedians, and installation artists to create grand spectacles that the public will embrace.”
Pages Beyond Bricks & Mortar, the pop-up version of the former Queen Street bookstore, will sell books at all festival events. Glassman adds that he will be reaching out to publishing colleagues in the coming weeks, though he has already assembled a board that includes Robert Logan, chief scientist at OCAD’s strategic innovation lab and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto; Doina Popescu, founding director of the Ryerson Image Centre; Xenophile Media founder Patrick Crowe; PEN Canada executive director Tasleem Thawar; Point of View magazine publisher Judy Wolfe; and digital publishing veteran Robert Kasher.
TINARS will continue its regular programming throughout the winter. Two events scheduled this month feature poet and critic Jason Guriel (The Pig Headed Soul, Jan. 8) and novelist Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer (All the Broken Things, Jan. 20).