A Digital Casualty at the New York Times

“We are sponges and we live in a world where the fire hose is always on. “

So says David Carr in the NYTimes.com in speaking of the “media juggernaut” we are all riding that has supposedly left print behind at the station.

Carr is speaking about Rupert Murdoch’s bid to acquire Time Warner, Inc. last week. He notes that neither company, although both began as print media companies, owns print assets anymore.

“To the extent that the proposal offered a crystal ball on the future of media,” Carr asserts, “print doesn’t seem as if it will be much a part of it.”

Yet his assertions somehow ring hollow. He goes on to talk about our digital lifestyle in a way that makes us look addicted, somehow pathetic and disengaged, surely not states we would aim for, right?

“Online, we are always beckoned forward to the next great thing, often right in the middle of what we thought we wanted to read about. Consider how many times you have clicked a link early in an article and never returned to what brought you there in the first place,” Carr notes.

He speaks of the frenzied flood of information online, the “immediacy of now” and the constant fire hose. And he notes what we’ve been pointing out about digital media, “that comprehension, concentration and retention all went off a cliff when information was taken in online.”

Then he talks about a recent three-hour train ride, during which he unplugged and sat back with his latest issues of New York Magazine, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Pitchfork, and several others.  The relief was palpable as he put down his devices and drank in the printed word.

“I was having a moment, one without informational angst or FOMO (fear of missing out),” Carr noted.
“And when I finished something, I spent time staring out the window at the unspeakably pretty Hudson River. I came to rest.”

The irony does not escape us. He makes a business case, based on recent industry news, for the demise of print. Yet in his actions, he demonstrates the real allure of print, the experience of reading in print that no digital device can replicate. And in this crystal clear moment of dissonance the point is made for us.

“We are all on that train, the one that left print behind, the one where we are constantly in real time, where we know a little about everything and nothing about anything, really. And there is no quiet car.”

Funny, but not all of us are on that train, David.