August 24, 2006

Print Nostalgia


I find this an apt image to post having just relocated from Los Angeles to Barcelona for my sabbatical.

.. By the way, I hope The BAG didn’t suffer too much this past week while I was boosting signals in airport food courts from Captain’s Clubs; getting ripped off for big euros from hotels where the otherwise “free” service ran at a snails pace; slinking through lobbies juggling adapters and power cords; and wrestling with Telefonica over speed and compatibility issues in a country that has obviously yet to be invaded by the Apple Store.

More relevant, however, is the fact I haven’t seen a physical newspaper for over a week now — not since I drove away from my house, and my NY Times and LA Times subscriptions.  Because I’ve never cared much for the International Herald Tribune, I’ve decided to do what many of you already do, which is get my news strictly from the web.  And you know what?  I’m experiencing no withdrawals.

(Although I am quite motivated to tune up my Spanish to avail myself of El Mundo and El Pais, or La Vanguardia and El Periodico, which are preferred in Catalunya, I’m sure they all have on-line editions.)

But back to the image.

One association the collage pulls for is that of a ransom note.  Ironically though, the hostage has already been done away with.  Unless the aim of the cover is sensationalism, I believe the question is already antiquated, holding interest only as a matter of form and semantics.  In other words, it’s not the newspaper that has expired so much as the old concept and term “newspaper.”  Already in its place is some new information entity which has permanently bifurcated into the “physical” and “electronic” body.

The use of “Who” is also conceptually strange.  Perhaps the cover reveals an editorial staff suffering from nostalgia and fear of evolutionary change.  Besides clinging to “the newspaper” as a singular, historical entity, the sense is that the Economist — while, at the same time, trying to make light of it — can’t face the on-line revolution without wishing for someone to blame.

(illustration: unattributed.  Economist.  August 26th 2006.  Cover)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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