Sunday, December 07, 2008

Practicing 'theft superior'

I've alerted the keeper of the W.T. Stead Resource Site, a collection of writings by an influential 19th century U.K. newspaper editor, to what I take to be a wonderful typographical (or digital scanning) error that stumbles into a larger truth.

The essay in question is
W.T. Stead, "The Future of Journalism" (The Contemporary Review, 1886). The passage that caught my eye is this one, with a great opening (emphasis added):
"A man without a newspaper is half-clad, and imperfectly furnished for the battle of life. From being persecuted and then contemptuously tolerated, it has become the rival of organized governments. Will it become theft superior? The future of journalism depends entirely upon the journalist."
True either way, especially that last sentence, but I think "theft superior" is a bad scan of the word "their."

The ironic question today is whether corporate publishers with their eye on profit margins and stock quotes have been distracted by such "theft superior" and have led to the demise of the vigorous public-service newspaper journalism that might fulfill its promise as a democratic force.

(Stead wrote about that, too. See his "Government by Journalism.")

This week's end-of-semester question: Can some new online media financial model, community-funded ( or non-profit journalistic enterprises and bloggers fill the blank if newspapers are knocked out of Stead's opening line?
"A man without [a blog | Google | numerous RSS feeds | Facebook | Fox News | MSNBC] is half-clad, and imperfectly furnished for the battle of life."

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