Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Crazy Little Thing Called News

I remember how excited I was as a kid seeing raw news coming off the wires, tick tick tick, well before the internet took hold. The Associated Press (AP) or United Press International (UPI) cabled eclectic updates, sending news items by telegraph, telephone, radio, courier . . . using technology, combined with rail and auto, that had created sports as we know it, ups and downs of stock markets, currency exchange rates and stylized formats for presenting the news that we still recognize and rely on. 

Back then, I often looked at 3D globes and paper maps. From the perspective of the East Coast of the USA, I sometimes wondered what was happening in places like Zanzibar, Inner Mongolia, Bolivia or Ghana. Now -- and for the past two decades, really -- with the internet, it's much easier to find out for oneself -- and fast. 

Multiple language filters are less of a challenge, too, thanks to instant (if still a little clunky) electronic translations served up with the click of a mouse. (They were called "machine translations" when I worked in Public Documents & Maps).

In this so-called 21st century, with even basic curiosity and imagination, anyone with high speed access to the internet and rudimentary information literacy can customize their own approach to "the news." 

What is "the news?"  Even the word "News" is slangish, when you think about it.  That which is new? But not all news is new -- in fact, much of it's old hat. (Usage of  the word "news" is nothing new, either: it goes back more than six hundred years). 

Consider this approach to the news from nearly three hundred years ago. The "tag-line" for The Pennsylvania Gazette pictured above: "Containing the freshest Advices Foreign and Domestic" (spelling modernized -- it's from the year 1729 after all).  This was the first incarnation of The Pennsylvania Gazette as published by Benjamin Franklin.

In the right-hand column, the "editorial" asserts: 

There are many who have long desired to see a good News-Paper in Pennsylvania; and we hope those Gentlemen who are able, will contribute towards making This such. We ask Assistance, because we are fully sensible, that to publish a good News-Paper is not so easy an Undertaking as many People imagine it to be. The Author of a Gazette (in the Opinion of the Learned) ought to be qualified with an extensive Acquaintance with Languages, a great Easiness and Command of Writing and Related Things clearly and intelligibly, and in few Words; he should be able to Speak of War both Land and Sea; be well acquainted with Geography; with the History of the Time . . . and so on. 

"Breaking" news is another strange concept when you think about it. What is it breaking against -- time? Tranquility? Complacency? Boredom? 

In future, I'd like to spend a little more time considering language differences in concepts and names regarding "the news." 

Isn't it funny how many quirky names there are for various "news" publications?  Like the names of ships, storms and sports teams, naming conventions are bizarrely universal.

How do you gather or receive "news?" Have you changed your approach through time?   

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune. 


Adorably Dead said...

I used to get a lot of my news from the Daily Show when I was younger. I still prefer to have my news mixed with humor, especially if it's horrible. Now I scroll through Reddit. :p

Charles Gramlich said...

I still watch the TV news, usually the international stuff and the local stuff for weather. I fact check a lot of things through the net. Don't really read newspapers any more.