Sunday, September 06, 2009

Old media to new, we're all old dogs trying to learn new tricks

I've belatedly discovered Jim Gaines' blog. He's a former managing editor of People, Time and Life magazines, now editor of FLYP (, which he calls "the first true multimedia publication online." I'll be watching both, and encouraging my students to do the same.

Reading back through his blog posts, this passage caught my eye... I should put it on my office door with a "me too" at the end.
I am the old guy working hard to learn everything, from everyone. I was lucky to leave print when I did, but I take no pleasure in watching the fall of “dead tree” media.
That item is headlined Eyes Wide Shut, but the one that got me reading his stuff in the first place is the latest The Story Is Dead. Long Live the Story, where he observes that "The story is not dead, it's just suffering..."
"The reason is that publishers, journalists and other story tellers have been slow to adapt to a digital world with lots of newfangled pens and pencils, including audio, video, full-motion infographics, Flash animation, various forms of interactivity—and, of course, words, the better the better.

"Some of us have confused the availability of new tools with the need for a new theory of knowledge. To be sure, our moment is revolutionary, and the media disruption we are experiencing now will have revolutionary outcomes. But the story in this revolution is like the axe in the transition from stone to bronze: We still used axes. The edge just got a lot sharper."

His post is partly a response to one by Vin Crosbie, someone I've known for years, and I don't think he was declaring the death of storytelling... but many a good conversation has started with some kind of miscommunication or misreading, especially online where we tend to skim and miss some nuances.

If I read them correctly, Vin was arguing that "stories" aren't the only (or best) way online media can convey some of the things that "local news" sites and newspapers publish in newspaper-story form... while Jim is arguing that storytellers should embrace new media and learn to use them well. I don't think those two ideas conflict.

In fact, putting the two side by side makes me want to go dust off Mitchell Stephens' book, "The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word," and also go search the Web for any more-recent reflections he's had on the state of storytelling. But not this afternoon.

Footnote: For students following my advice to look at FLYP; after you form your own opinions, also look at Is FLYP the Future? and Multimedia Magazine Finds New Ways... and if you're ready to start learning multimedia reporting tools yourself, download a copy of Mindy McAdams' Reporter's Guide to Multimedia Proficiency. It's free, all 42 printable pages, but you don't have to print them -- the links in the PDF document work from with Preview or Adobe Reader.