Posted by: patenttranslator | December 11, 2010

Will the Blogosphere Eventually Replace Most of the Traditional Dead-Tree Media?

That is the question of the day, I think. At this point it is replacing many if not most of the traditional functions that newspapers used to have for this patent translator.

Every day I pick up two newspapers that are dropped off every day near my porch to read them while pumping some much needed caffeine into my system. But on most days I mostly scan the captions of articles and read perhaps a couple of these articles in each paper. For one thing, newspapers print yesterday’s news and we already know what happened yesterday because we already read all about it yesterday online. There would still be value in reading in-depth reporting and analysis on paper with your coffee if it were available and if you could trust that what they say in the paper is what actually happened. But can you?

Many people don’t trust the newspaper any more. I believe that many if not most thinking people mostly read newspapers these days to see what is the particular slant du jour for a given story, rather than to look for objective information and informed comment. This was exactly the function that newspapers used to have in the former Soviet Union and other communist countries. I know this because I lived in communist Czechoslovakia until I was 28. The equivalent of today’s Internet and blogosphere back then were broadcasts of BBC and Voice of America on short waves to the former Soviet Bloc countries. That is where most thinking people got actual information in communist countries back in the seventies and eighties as the official media was full of propaganda and half truths at best.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. It is a weird deja vu that I experience many mornings over my cup of coffee. For example, I was sure that the Washington Post and Virginian Pilot would give prominent coverage to the attack of demonstrators on the car of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla after the tuition fee hikes in England. I was watching the demonstrations on my BBC America TV channel. The look on Camilla’s face when the car window was broken by a demonstrator was something to behold. It will sell a lot of papers tomorrow morning, I thought to myself. The picture is bound to be featured prominently in my paper tomorrow.

But I was wrong. There were two short articles with small black and white pictures in each of my papers. I was taken aback. Aren’t newspapers “bleeding red ink?” Don’t they need to sell more papers? When Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith died, huge color pictures and endless stories about the dead celebrities were assaulting people from news stands and TV screens for days if not weeks.

And then it dawned on me: they don’t want to give people any ideas. When so many people are as angry at the greedy rich as they are these days, you don’t want to provoke them with pictures of demonstrators defying centuries of established rules and traditions, even if these demonstrators are breaking windows on a different continent. Tuition fees are going up here as well, and so is the cost of food, health insurance, utilities … But these costs are not included in official statistics. And since economists call these items “categories with volatile prices” and exclude them from statistics, officially, there is no inflation and you don’t need to give more money to old people surviving on a fixed income. Very clever.

Except that anybody can go to Internet publications and the blogosphere to read comparisons of real costs with inflation analyses which include these “volatile prices”. The problem is, once you stop believing in the tooth fairy or official statistics, you are not likely to start believing in these things again.

There are three categories of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. I believe it was Ronald Reagan who used to say that. Ronald Reagan also used to say “trust but verify”. Unlike this Wikipedia article, I remember that Reagan learned this saying from Gorbachev (Доверяй, но проверяй), who in turn learned it from Stalin if I am not mistaken. I even remember Reagan saying it in Russian on television around 1987. Most of the time when American actors pretend to speak Russian in a film, you can’t understand a single word they say. But Reagan learned to pronounce his Russian sentence very well.

It is sad that here in America, the collective memory, or the common frame of reference for most people, mostly ends with Reagan. Nobody remembers Gorbachev much, let alone Stalin or Marie Antoinette.


  1. The bleeding-ink newspapers do up Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole because that’s what they think of their readership, and then they lament that the Internet is dumbing down the audience and trivializing serious matters.

    You’re right that the Government-Media complex doesn’t want copycat demonstrations here. They couldn’t ignore the tea party demonstrations because New Media put it in our faces.

    But people are abandoning the Controlled Press and don’t believe it anymore because there are lies by commission, omission, and selective spin.

    Honduras is a case in point, in which AP, UPI, Reuters, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, and every nation in the world got it officially backwards. Welcome to the new Communist Czechoslovakia, the entire world in which most of the news has to be vetted by people who agree with George Soros, who wants to treat the planet like Russia treated Prague Spring.

    Honduras stopped a coup in progress by the elected president Zelaya who went renegade, began his dictatorship in January 2009, ruling by decree as if there were no Congress and flaunting disobedience to court orders.

    The United States ambassador supporting that coup by socialists, and called it a coup when they restored the Republic with the congressional vote recognizing the constitutional termination of his “presidency” and the constitutional succession of power by Micheletti.

    BBC got that one wrong too.

    Deja vu indeed. Good thing that God is not mocked, and Jesus is coming back soon…



  2. “The bleeding-ink newspapers do up Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole because that’s what they think of their readership, and then they lament that the Internet is dumbing down the audience and trivializing serious matters.”

    I agree completely. Every year I keep wondering, should I finally cancel my newspaper subscription? But for some reason, I still have them delivered. Old habits die hard. But when people die and their children no longer have these habits, old habits do eventually die too.


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