Read Rodriquez’s “Final Edition: The Twilight of the American Newspaper” with and against ideas presented in another class reading. Your response should be a minimum of 900 words. Responses are due on 4/14.
The focus and purpose of Rodriguez’s article is very different from the rest of the readings we have done this semester. It makes no remarks about how technology and the internet is destroying literacy, or rather Rodriguez states flat out that he, “[does not] believe the decline of newspapers has been the result solely of computer technology or of the Internet.” In fact this is really the only point in his article where he mentions the sentiment that technology and the internet are ruining literacy or the newspaper. The majority of the other articles that we’ve read deal with this argument by refuting it and trying to prove why it is false. But Rodriguez approaches this from a completely different perspective. His viewpoint is from the newspaper itself, on its purpose and on its decline. In this sense it is similar to the two Baron chapters that we read, as it deals with a specific type of literacy technology. While Baron focused on the pencil and its history as technology, Rodriguez explores the newspaper and its role as a cultural and social technology.
Rodriguez writes about how newspapers functioned as more than just news when they were first conceived. Newspapers have been tied to cities, to a “sense of place.” Since newspapers began naming themselves after the cities they’re a part of, the identities of newspapers and cities have become intertwined. Rodriguez pinpoints what he believes is behind the destruction of newspapers, it is the loss of a sense of place. People are needed to feel and in believe a sense of place for it to exist. The fact that children are growing up in with such an expanded view of the world is breaking down the idea of physical communities. And the reasons behind this loss of physical community and physical boundaries are “as varied and foregone as the Model-T Ford and the birth-control pill.”
I find that this very interestingly contrasts with the Henry Jenkins chapter we read, “Why Heather Can Write.” While Rodriguez talks about the loss of a sense of physical place, the loss of community, Jenkins deals with the building of communities. Both are essentially saying the same thing, that physical boundaries are hardly felt through the use of technology and the Internet. For Rodriguez, this means a breaking down of communities and a sense of place that rely on physicality. For Jenkins, this means a barrier has been overcome, and other factors besides physicality become the basis for a community. Common interest becomes one of the strongest factors in community building, with the Internet if there’s something you enjoy, there’s definitely a website and a community built around it already. On the off chance that there isn’t, you can create it, and others will follow.
There is a fascinating contrast within this type of community building. Brought together through common interest, there can be enormous amounts of diversity. Harry Potter fans come in all races, genders, political affiliations, nationalities, and more. In some ways physical communities can be the opposite. They are brought together from something like the physicality of their living space, and this physicality can limit the community’s races, genders, political affiliations, etc. Certainly there are margins at in both instances, there will always be people who don’t fit the grain in a given community or social organization. But diversity seems to be more prevalent on the Internet, where aspects of a person in a physical environment simply don’t matter like they do “IRL.” (in real life)
It can be argued that Rodriguez is romanticizing the newspaper just like how Baron states that people romanticize handwriting. People can get their news from a plethora of other sources, just as people can more easily communicate through text that isn’t handwritten. Both are steeped in the idea of sentimentality, of the past. Handwriting is seen as more personal, and crucial in the formation of literacy and learning. At the same time, newspapers are a type of community anchor, crucial to the formation of a sense of physical boundaries and community within a city. Both are becoming outdated for similar a reason, a reason which Rodriguez acknowledges: as human beings we are changing. It isn’t that newspapers are changing, or that pencils are changing. How our society approaches communication is changing, and thus handwriting is becoming more and more outdated the more our approach to textual communication changes. Our society is also approaching community differently. Physical boundaries are not the main basis for many communities, and the further this continues, the further people attach physicality with communities.
Much of Rodriguez’s article is historical, explaining how newspapers changed throughout the years. This lends to the tone of sentimentalism he constructs around his article. He talks about the newspaper as if he is losing a cherished friend, a friend who is slowly being driven out by a world that no longer needs it. In many ways this is true, and that’s exactly why Rodriguez writes about it as such. He mentions obituaries several times throughout this article, and his article itself is an early obituary for newspapers. His chronicling of the newspaper’s rise, of its role throughout its lifetime, and of its decline is not only a factual timeline, it is a tribute. The important thing is this: Rodriguez doesn’t only mourn the death of the newspaper, he is mourning the death of cities and their ability to be seen as cities.
Rodriguez’s article raises an interesting point regarding American nature and how we value how news gets distributed. Everyday there is a news report on television about the weather as well as the day’s top stories. These are usually broadcasted early in the morning, typically for people who have to wake up early or go to work. Yet, what about the people who choose to wake up late or do not necessarily have to wake up early for work? How is this category of people supposed to receive their news? The answer lies in the newspaper, the cornerstone of American news. All around the world in a plethora of cities, newspapers are produced and distributed. They give information ranging from sports, politics, and entertainment to the economy, agriculture and job opportunities. However, what would happen if all newspapers were eradicated permanently and we were forced to rely on the early morning news. Even worse, if we missed the morning show they society would be subjected to the daily broadcast reruns that come on throughout the day? I personally would be devastated because even though I don’t read the newspaper every day I still use it occasionally to get my news. Now that I have listed the purpose of the newspaper in general I will list the historical and informational benefits of newspapers and their place in American society.
In American society the newspaper has served as a useful tool, earning a permanent place in both the past and present. In addition to a newspaper’s ability to provide the news, it serves a greater purpose. Its purpose is to entertain, incite the population and provide a lasting history for generations to come. Due to all three of these things newspaper’s role in society is greater than people think. They entertain us by giving us stories that will keep our attention as well as spark our interests. As such, they will gain the attention of a larger number of the population which will cause a variety of beneficial changes. Some of these changes include; improved sells and more job opportunities and funds for expansion. Despite all of these accommodations that newspapers provide one of their most lasting benefits is their historical contributions. In a historical sense newspapers are highly appreciative because they allow for future generations to understand and learn things from past times. This is helpful because society learns from their past and as such newspapers are a great tool to explain this history. In spite of these numerous benefits that newspapers provide they are unfortunately on the decline.
As Rodriguez states in the beginning of his article, many of the newspapers that have been around for the last century or more are unfortunately starting to disappear. There is a plethora of reasons why this is occurring yet people don’t know the real reasons and thus form their own hypothesis. For example, one growing theory is because of a growing disinterest in the news when in actuality it’s because times are changing. Instead of eradicating the paper as a whole, companies are instead changing the name. This is for two main reasons as stated by Rodriguez. The first is to distinguish any confusion between papers that have the same name such as the Alexandria Gazette and the New York Gazette. The second was “because the paper described the city and the city described the paper.” I think that the second reason is more substantial because I can personally identify with how a newspaper can describe a city. For instance, I am originally from Chicago and there we have two main papers; the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Both papers have been around for a long time and both are uniquely different. The Tribune is published throughout the week whereas the Sun-Times is only distributed on Sunday’s (hence its name). Nevertheless, I enjoy reading both papers because they have a Chicago aura to them that no other publisher can provide.
Listed above are two reasons why society believes that newspapers are dying and reasons why they are dying. Here is one of the more influential reasons why their presence has progressively deteriorated. Strangely enough the reason why newspapers are dying is unfortunately the same reason why society is progressing; technology. Technology is necessary because society needed to learn how to “acquire information in new ways.” As a result, society will not solely rely on newspapers, which are considered information tools of the past. Even though they are still useful, newspapers are dying out in today’s society because of the demand that technology provides. Yet, there is one positive of technology, which is that it actually integrates with newspapers. This process if done through email and it integrates newspapers and technology through the concept of sending pieces of articles called attachments through the web. Even though this method doesn’t use traditional ink and paper to make newspapers, the message is still being presented.
In summation, this article was useful to me because it helped me get a better understanding of technologies impact on the various past and present methods of gaining information. Through Rodriguez’s article I discovered the importance of newspapers and how their role in American society is crucial. Its role is significant enough not to be forgotten nor removed from history because it is a solid piece of information that can be interpreted and studied without anything except the necessity of light, whether electrical or artificial.
Rodriquez’s article brings up many interesting and worrisome aspects of how newspapers are tied into American society and city communities. Before reading this article, I had never really put much thought into the decline of newspapers; I hear about it all the time from friends who are worried journalism majors, and I get offers to buy subscriptions to all sorts of newspapers all the time. I had sort of written away the decline of newspapers as a matter of fact due to the rise in the use of the Internet for things like news and weather updates—if you can get it easier, faster, and free if you already have a smart phone with a data plan, why get a huge chunk of paper at your door everyday? As well, I noted to myself that while my parents would never, ever cancel their St. Louis Post Dispatch subscription because they don’t use smart phones and they would say that they have no other way to know what’s going on or to get coupons and such, they hardly ever read more than a page of the entire paper before it goes into the recycling bin a couple of weeks later. They take comfort in knowing they have it sitting on the kitchen counter, if they want to flip through it, but unless they hear about something to read about online somewhere, on the radio, through word of mouth or on tv, they never even open the paper.
I think, just as Rodriquez was trying to nicely say, that the reason behind why newspapers aren’t selling as well, and why they’re closing down altogether, is that people just don’t care anymore. Not to say that American society has deteriorated into a bunch of awful people, but I think that things have shifted in our mindset, and that we have entered a trend that tells people that they should be independent of their communities, private and guarded with their information, and that everyone is a stranger, in effect. This is necessary for a generation of people who do more and more communicating on the Internet because the Internet allows people to alter their behaviors, cover up or take on new identities, or otherwise much more easily deceive, trick, or harm others without the risk of being known and a much lower chance of getting caught or having any sort of consequence to their actions. I think this has extended into our psychological role in communities—where once there were towns where the newspaper would freely announce a birth or a death or a happy occasion in order to help let others in the community know about it, today people might see this as a breach of privacy and sue a newspaper for publishing personal information. So the newspapers only publish what they’re given, and less and less is being given to them, so the quality and value of a newspaper to readers is dwindling. Newspapers used to connect people and give them a sense of being in their community, or at least an opportunity to be able to connect with their community. I think this is what my parents are aware of, and why they would never want to stop subscribing to the Post Dispatch. They don’t want to willingly cut off their connection to the community, they want to keep it open if it happens to offer anything good. But they don’t really have the desire to connect with the community anymore, since most of the news in the newspaper, especially in St. Louis, is about who got shot and what drug deals happened and how the city is being developed by idiots and everything pretty much is going to hell. They also don’t want to get their news through someone else’s opinion about what happened—they want a headline fact. These are their arguments against watching the news on TV, but it’s there in the newspaper too. To get the news the way they want it—filtering out all the crime and things that make them hate their fellow strangers in St. Louis and only getting the headlines from an authority, they go to the Internet.
I thought that the way Rodriquez presents this problem with community disconnect was very similar to what Carrington was getting at in her article “I write, therefore I am: texts in the city”…that some young people use graffiti in order to create their own expression in their community, and in order to connect themselves to their community. By spray painting your own creation of art in whatever form on a public building, a person says to all of the other members of that community “Hey, here I am”, and when people walk by it and see it, they have proof that that person that made that art and the ideas that they had, exist. Being able to express yourself in a public place is something that bonds you to a community—the way you choose to express yourself says tomes about what values you have taken as your own from your surroundings, how you feel, what you like, what you dislike, and what you want from the world. Even if all of that isn’t gathered at once from a piece of art or a public expression, it’s usually there, at least in part, if you were to look at it from an outsider’s perspective. The internet creates so much anonymity and separates real feelings and sympathy that it in a way threatens our sense of physical community. Sure, you can now chat about anything with anyone anywhere anytime, but you’ll probably never see that person face to face and have Real knowledge of them. Most take it for granted, as the way things are going, but like Rodriquez says, it’s worrisome that newspapers are dying out because in a way our cities are dying with them. If our cities are dying, what will happen to where and how we live? Will no one record it in a physical way when everything becomes digitalized? Will no information be permanent and real?
Rodriguez seems to lament the loss of the newspaper and what it represented, a sort of golden age description of the newspaper as he goes throughout history describing what changes it went through. Rodriguez presents a very unique perspective on newspapers – one that I haven’t even thought of. He presents it in an almost magical way; as if the newspapers had a life of their own. It not only symbolized culture and life, but was culture and life.
Throughout high school, I really only did one thing- the newspaper. I focused all my time and energy into creating the best newspaper. For four years, I worked tirelessly on the high school newspaper. I thought my job was to deliver the news. I thought if I did my job, that would make the newspaper great – that would make the newspaper necessary. People would have to read the newspaper to know what’s going on. In my mind, that’s what made a successful newspaper. I never saw the way Rodriguez did. And I think that’s what Rodriguez’s point is; things change over time. Sometimes they change because of other external forces, but sometimes they just change because their functions change, or people change.
We see news on the decline because news represents something entirely different. It is not the same as it was when newspapers first started coming out. Rodriguez’s argument, unlike many of the other arguments we have come across, doesn’t blame the decline of newspapers on technology; rather, he emphasizes that the function of newspapers have changed. Newspapers were linked to people and cities – it formed an identity. However, now, we don’t see that as much. Personally, I have no connection with any newspaper. Even though I am from the suburbs of Chicago, I do not feel connected to Chicago Tribune like the woman in the article did (and she didn’t even live there). This relationship between the people and the newspaper is what changed, and this is why we are reading newspapers less and less today.
There is a loss of community that happens when the world gets bigger. The more people there are, and the more we know, the more interests there are that separate those people. I think that’s why there was a loss of space – that’s why newspapers are not tied to cities or communities, because we are all so diverse. And I also think that’s why a lot of people argue that technology has reduced literacy. However, I would argue that new technology has only magnified our problem, or highlighted it – it didn’t cause it. When thinking about Jenkin’s excerpt about the internet, I realized that there is an overabundance of communities online. Perhaps because the idea of the newspaper stopped being tied with identity and community, people began to look elsewhere, namely online. I wonder why it’s “easier” for people to be in an online community rather than a physical community. Why can’t the newspaper compete with the Internet, especially if the Internet isn’t tangible?
I agree with Rodriguez that there is a disconnect within the community – but he doesn’t seem to offer any sort of solution for it. I don’t know what the solution is either. Maybe there is no solution. And maybe the solution is the Internet, because it can bring people together – but what does that imply about literacy? These are things I want to know, but can’t seem to find answers for.
What struck me about Richard Rodriguez’s article was the way in which he wrote it. It was quite an extended, personal piece, the article almost made me feel like I was sitting on my grandfather’s knee as he told me about old times. As he wrote about his ninety-year-old friend and how he read Herb Caen’s articles in high school, I could not help but ask myself, “okay great, you have old friends and read newspapers. What’s your point?” Rodriguez’s article is very nostalgic; it is as if he is simply writing down whatever comes to him, jumping from one aspect of newspapers to their impact on his life and so on. This is not a bad thing, of course; it is just a lot different from what we have read in the past. The newspaper is a form of writing technology, an outlet of expression published for centuries. Newspapers have been such a staple in many towns that it became part of the identity of its place of publication. With the town’s announcements, events, news and whatnot in the newspaper, it is documentation that said subjects have occurred. Newspapers give towns an existence, and give the people that are in them an identity and when its local paper ceases publication, what gives the city its existence? Rodriguez’s beloved San Francisco Chronicle is in jeopardy, and feels that, “when a newspaper dies in America, it is not simply that a commercial enterprise has failed,” Rodriguez writes, “a sense of place has failed…San Francisco’s sense of itself as a city is perishing”. San Francisco was a world away from the east coast, and people like the de Youngs created newspapers not only for entertainment, but to establish proof of San Francisco’s existence and identify it as, “the Paris of the Pacific”. This is what Rodriguez loves about the newspaper; for example, the publication of his own birth announcement made him feel real, that his own being is in existence because several papers affirmed it. Rodriguez is lamenting of the downfall of the newspaper not so much for the sake of expression, but for the sake of identity. He noted many newspapers that have ceased publication due to poor revenue, and he feels that the cities these newspapers were published are now in an identity crisis and, “we no longer imagine the newspaper as a city or the city as a newspaper”.
After reading “Final Edition”, Dennis Baron’s A Better Pencil came to mind. The historical aspect of the article reminded me of the way Baron discussed the history of writing technologies, especially Thoreau and his beloved pencil. As interesting as the history of the pencil and San Francisco Chronicle are, parts began to blur or lose my interest. This could show the difference between generations and how history plays a role in our daily lives. Pencils have been a commonplace staple in my household and education, and the history of the Chicago Tribune is not something I am overly concerned about, whereas the histories of such things are vastly important to Rodriguez and Baron. I am not saying I do not care about the history of the world around me, it is just the things we take for granted are the things we often show little interest in learning about. The experience’s of one’s life results in the values a person has in knowing the history of parts of their lives. For instance, my generation may be lamenting about the downfall of the computer one day and the younger generation will simply think we are overdramatic about such an insignificant, old technology. People value the story behind objects that made an impact on their lives, much like how the newspaper impacted Rodriguez.
Baron and Rodriguez have noticed the disappearance, or obsoleteness, of writing technologies. Baron notes the computer has dominated the pencil and handwriting, whereas Rodriguez recognizes the downfall of the newspaper. However, neither wants to point an accusing finger at the computer, the internet or other advancements of technology. Rodriguez wants to make it clear that, “I do not believe the decline of newspapers has been the result solely of computer technology or of the Internet. The forces working against newspapers are probably as varied and foregone as the Model-T Ford and the birth-control pill.” In other words, yes, technology is a factor, but it is also the change in consumers’ interest in themselves and the world around them. Baron has similar logic when he is talking about the critics of computers and avid supporters of the pencil. Using a computer over a pencil is not a sin or indicates a person’s loss of intellect, it is only a matter of changing times and a change of a dominate writing technology. While neither want to blame technology advancement for the downfall of pencils, handwriting and newspapers, Rodriguez appears to take it more to heart. His article is much more personal and his opinion on the decline of newspapers is stressed more than Baron is in A Better Pencil. Baron does note the loss of identity with the decline of handwriting, but Rodriguez is stressing the loss of an entire community’s identity. A cities autonomy and overall closeness among citizens is something he is greatly concerned about. The personal touch of a local newspaper is something Rodriguez appears to lament over, whereas Baron is going with the flow, with the mentality that, “everything happens for a reason”.
Richard Rodriguez’s article, “Final edition: Twilight of the American newspaper” is an interesting contrast to the rest of the reading we have done for this class. He speaks similarly to other of our authors in discussing the how printed text is no longer a primary source of information or mode of communication in today’s world. However, differs from them greatly in that he moves the focus away from technology to look at how people have changed themselves. The main argument I took away from reading this article was that the printed word is on the decline not because of all the new fangled writing methods people happened to create, but because people no longer want to be limited by are just hungry for more information and experiential knowledge than a newspaper can give them.
This reminds me of the heavily discussed piece by Richard Lanham, The Economics of Attention, which we used tirelessly in class. Toward the end of the lengthy work, he says this: “We are all piloting that informational fighter plane as it flies low over an ever-changing informational landscape. Long on information and short on time to absorb it, we need, and have created, a new way to economize our attention…We need to process information faster and to express it in a more immediately intuitive way” (114-115). I think that this argument is similar to the one being made by Rodriguez. One newspaper that covers the happenings of one city just doesn’t cut it anymore. People are looking to consume a wider scope of information – they want the news of the whole world. Since there couldn’t very well be one enormous World News Paper (it would be enormous!) society has turned to sounds, images, videos, and moving text on the Internet to accommodate this demand because it’s easier to process and removes limitation.
To me, this is really all about globalization. Rodriguez spent his entire article pining just for the nostalgia of his newspaper, which meant something very personal to him. “The paper described the city and the city described the paper,” he repeats. I cannot relate to this sentiment; because I was born in this information age, I cannot remember picking up a paper and really admiring the way it seemed to capture the personality of my home and being proud of the unique connection. It seems to me though, that this is exactly what Rodriguez was used to doing and what he thought a news source should be. When I try to imagine this feeling, it seems quaint and sort of nice – warm and fuzzy. It just doesn’t seem to be reasonable – cities aren’t housed inside giant impenetrable bubbles. Every city on Earth is somehow affected by the world around it. So shouldn’t the information we receive be characterized by a global perspective – not just our immediate surroundings?
Perhaps this is just a change in attitude from one generation to the next. Rodriguez seems to recognize this sort of shift to a global perspective: “Careening down Geary Boulevard on the 38 bus, I can talk to my dear Auntie in Delhi or I can view snapshots of my cousin’s wedding in Recife or I can listen to girl punk from Glasgow.” To me, this seems exciting and wonderful. Anyone is really capable of connecting to some aspect of the world around them. Physical miles are no longer significant obstacles. I have the opportunity to tap into other cultures and experience events that I may never get to physically travel to or see. Because of such technological advances the world is opened up to me, and I think this is a beautiful thing. Rodriguez though, seems to look upon my attitude negatively. He goes on to say, “The cost of my cyber-urban experience is disconnection from body, from presence, from city.”
Perhaps it is true that there are some very meaningful implications resulting from my global mindset. Is the world a less personal place to live? Maybe. Are people less focused on what’s physically going on immediately around them (like the girl Rodriguez describes as having been “mowed down by a honking bus”)? Possibly so. But are we inherently less connected to our cities? Definitely not. This part of Rodriguez’s logic falls down. Being interested in accessing faraway places does not automatically take our interest away from the places we live in. I am reminded of another article we discusses in class, “I write, therefore I am: texts in the city” by Victoria Carrington. In it she discusses an emerging art form – graffiti. She explains how this practice is more than just garbage on walls and sides of city buses. Though it is unsanctioned, graffiti can portray powerful messages, and it’s also a legitimate form of community participation. The artists discussed in the article often have a political statement behind their work, but they are at the same time involving themselves in their home community well. So they are showing an interest in the worldly and the immediate at the same time; they don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. I think this balance is possible for all of us. We can enjoy and embrace the worldly opportunities that technological advances give us, while still staying actively and personally connected to our communities. This may not be simple or completely intuitive, but it’s possible.
Richard Rodriguez’ article “Final edition: Twilight of the American newspaper” briefly presents ideas discussed in other readings of this course. This article, however, is slightly different from the usual readings. The first section of the article reminded me of Henry Jenkins’ chapter “Why Heather Can Write” from his book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. This first section of “Twilight of the American newspaper” mentions how a ninety-six year old scholar learned how to read from the Chicago Tribune newspaper. The connection I made here with the “Why Heather Can Write” chapter is the fact that an unconventional instructional material helped these individuals in terms of literacy. In Henry Jenkins’ chapter, a girl named Heather learns and improves her writing by running and interacting with a Harry Potter website she creates.
The “Twilight of the American newspaper” article then goes on to discuss how the author began to read the San Francisco Chronicle at an early age. He was not from San Francisco; he was closer to Sacramento. However, he mentions how by reading the San Francisco Chronicle he was able to explore and learn about the city of San Francisco without having lived there. He argues that when the San Francisco Chronicle started dying out, the city itself started to die with it. His argument is that when an American newspaper dies, a place in America dies as well. By this, he implies that a newspaper is special to a place in America; a newspaper describes the city and the city describes the newspaper. This section reminded me of Victoria Carrington’s article “I write, therefore I am: texts in the city”. This article discusses the idea that the graffiti describes, and is part of, the city where it is displayed. This somewhat goes hand in hand with the idea that a newspaper describes the city and the city describes the newspaper.
The “Twilight of the American newspaper” then discusses the development of a certain newspaper named the Daily Dramatic Chronicle. Two brothers in the city of San Francisco published this newspaper. At first the newspaper was mostly about opera and shows. The newspaper eventually included actual news and events that occurred in the city of San Francisco. The article mentions how readers from all over the country were fascinated by any news of the gold rush city. This shows how as society and the city of San Francisco changed, so did the newspaper. The newspaper and the city become some sort of mutual force which influences change in each other. So, the change in society influences the newspaper to change. In a similar fashion, the newspaper causes change in society. An example of this is mentioned in the article. The brothers wrote a piece in their Daily Dramatic Chronicle that upset a certain someone that was mentioned in the piece. That person insulted the brothers’ mother, and later the person’s son killed one of the brothers of the Daily Dramatic Chronicle. In this way, the brothers lived by the newspaper’s purpose, which was “that it should entertain and incite the people”. All of this goes to show how close the relationship is between the newspaper and the city.
To further argue this claim, the article discusses how most newspaper publishers were accustomed to lord over cities. The newspaper itself is a misnomer because it is not simply a piece of paper that presents news articles. The article argues that the newspaper is a keeper of public record. It gives the example of announcing someone’s birth or death. Perhaps more importantly, a newspaper is evidence of the existence of a city. The connection I made with these ideas is to that of the Victoria Carrington article “I write, therefore I am: texts in the city”. In this article, Carrington mentions the idea that the urban graffiti is a personal narrative. This personal narrative tells a story of a person, but it also tells a story of the city. By removing the graffiti, you are removing a part of that person, but equally you are removing a part of the city. This is the same, if not more tragic, for the failed newspaper. From the information above, one can note how close the relationship is between the newspaper and the city. Another connection I made with the course readings is with Dennis Baron’s “National Handwriting Day”. In this chapter, Baron discusses the various changes in writing technologies over the years. He presents the question of whether the practice of handwriting is fading away for good? Some of the reasons why it might be dying out are because of technologies such as typewriters, computers, blogs, etc. This same argument can be said of the newspaper. The newspaper might be dying out because of technologies such as television, computers with internet, phones with internet, etc. As technologies change, society adapts to them. So, the newspaper may or may not be soon coming to an end, but it certainly has major consequences whenever one does go under.
Rodriquez addresses the loss of the popularity of newspapers in a nostalgic way. I think the way this is written really sensitizes the issue of the newspaper’s decline. Although not directly, it reminds me of the Davis article with the numerous case studies involving young adult’s experiences with technology and the loyalty felt in their respective times. Rodriquez chronicles the history of his beloved paper, while adding a personal touch to it as well.
Another similarity I saw with the two articles was the emphasis they both placed on personal experiences being important to the whole. Sure, when I’m home I look forward to flipping through the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and expect it to be on my driveway forever, but I think the purpose of the newspaper has changed. Last time I was home, there was an article about street names or places that are pronounced differently in St. Louis than in other places. It was a really entertaining article and my grandpa brought up the article later that day. I think these types of articles that bring a city together are what Rodriquez misses. He decides the problem is that the city does not embody this type of camaraderie anymore and newspapers do not know how to combat this problem.
A contrast between these two articles is that the Davis article focuses on technology and how it has shaped literacy narratives, while Rodriquez takes a historical approach that seems to ignore technology, even though it most likely played a large role in the decline of the newspaper. However, they both deal with writing and how there is so much outside influence on writing and the ways writing is produced and consumed. While Davis focuses on how technology shifts writing, Rodriquez addresses that it is the city in itself and the people who bring the newspaper character. Although it is not explicitly said, I don’t think the city does not have character, but that the outlet for expression has changed. It cannot be ignored that technology is ubiquitous and social media is a large part of communities. Also, technology and other advances have led to globalization. People no longer have to read about a far-off city. People are much more mobile now and are able to visit other cities comparatively easily. “Readers in other parts of the country were fascinated by any scrap of detail about the Gold Rush city” (Rodriquez). People would latch on to any information they could get, instead of checking out the Wikipedia entry or asking the person next to you what San Francisco is like. Maybe this is stretching a bit too far, but this might be like literacy narratives and technology information for us in the modern world. Davis writes this huge article with case studies all about people and their experiences with technology grown up. Although technology is always evolving, will we always be interested in it? I think this is something to think about for everything. Most things have their natural end and this might be it for the newspaper. I think I would be sad to see it go, but just because something has always been for us, does not mean we need to keep it. Profitability is the main goal for a lot of companies and we cannot ignore that because we like something. Rodriquez seems to have a nice little system of getting three papers a day. If that is what it takes to make him happy, then there it is.
It also seems that Rodriquez frequently speaks about the heads of the newspaper companies like they are extremely visual and invested in their products. These (usually) men were seemingly interested in placing information in the newspapers that were relevant to their cities and lived in these cities. Now, a conglomerate might own numerous newspapers all across America and writing the same things in each one. Someone in Maine might not want to read about the same topics as someone in Arizona. Technology and stories about technology are the same way, but with technology there is always the opportunity to find the other view or story.
Rodriquez says that, “people under thirty won’t even notice.” Maybe this is true. I sound really horrible saying this, but the people under thirty will soon become the dominant population and eventually, the entire population. People want information and Rodriquez does not ignore this fact. He bashes people on their computers, but this is inevitably where the world is headed. I see no problem with any type of technology that delivers information in any type of way. Rodriquez ignores the idea of online newspapers and that they can still flourish online. I can read about novels, their reviews, movie times, or opinion pieces at the kitchen table with my laptop just as well as on a newspaper. I think the important thing to remember is that the certain sites on the internet cannot be trusted as reputable. However, if these newspapers print online, the prestige continues there as well. The New York Times online is a huge database of information and allows you to pull up articles from days, months, and even years ago. When you read the daily paper, you are not exposed to this huge realm of knowledge, but rather are limited to what you are given. Online information gives you choices in what you read and allows you to find another viewpoint on the issue as well.
This article, unlike the other articles that we have already read, focuses its attention and criticism of the newspaper specifically, and
how its purpose and influence of society has changed throughout the nineteenth century with the emergence of other technologies.
According to Rodriguez, “with the passage of time, the name of the city [where a particular newspaper was written] was commonly attached
to the name of the newspaper…because the paper described the city and the city described the paper.” The newspaper at the time was described
as “a record of the city’s mundane progress.” “Along with theatrical and operatic listings, the Chronicle then published news of ships sailing into and out of the bay and the dollar equivalents of treasure in their holds, and bank robberies, and saloon shootings, and gold
strikes and drawings, and extraordinary numbers of suicides, likewise fires, for San Francisco was a wooden city.” Additionally, “American
newspapers were entrusted to be keepers of public records—papers were daily or weekly cumulative almanacs of tabular information…a newspaper’s morgue was scrutable evidence of the existence of a city.”
Men who were in charge of newspapers at the time were also seen as having a higher status in society than the common person. As the article explains, “Men, usually men, who assumed the sole proprietorships of newspapers in the nineteenth century were the sort of men to be attracted by the way a newspaper could magnify an already fatted ego. Newspaper publishers were accustomed to lord over cities.”
After the nineteenth century and beyond, the value of newspapers has entirely changed. Rodriquez does not explicitly take a stance either for or against the rise of technology as previous authors we have read in class. Instead, he explains “Newspapers will be lost because technology will force us to acquire information in new ways.” He explains the disconnect information has with place, “The cost of my cyber-urban experience is disconnection from body, from presence, from city.” Furthermore, “Our inclination has led us to invest a digital cosmopolitanism that begins and ends with ‘I’.” He describes a woman who was “mowed down by a honking bus” because she was so focused on her “personal sounds and her texting apparatus” rather than what was going on in the world around her.
Many public venues have been completely transformed. The coffee house culture of before the nineteenth century—the place where people came for the latest news and gossip has been forever replaced by “free wi-fi,” lap tops, and racks filled with unwanted newspapers, “Several men and women sat alone at separate tables. No one spoke. The café advertised free wi-fi; all but one of the customers had lap tops open before them.” The place where people get their news is entirely different. Not much is needed from word of mouth when we are constantly connected to the latest updates via headline news, e-mail lists, text message subscriptions, Facebook status updates, and Tweets.
The news is still alive in our culture; however, it has taken a completely new appearance. As Rodriquez’ friend explains, “If I think of what many of my friends and I read these days, it is still a newspaper, but it is clipped and forwarded in bits and pieces on email…It is like a giant newspaper being assembled at all hours,
from every corner of the world, still with news but no roots in a
place. Perhaps we do not need a sense of place anymore.”
The article particularly resonates with me because the description of the café is identical to the description I can make of Starbucks and other coffee shops that I have visited. From my experiences, there are two different patrons to these places. There is normally the small group or “couple” who is collaborating together, and then there is patron who is hard at work on a laptop. Rarely do I see someone with a physical textbook or newspaper.
I hear so many of my friends tell me about the stereotype that students at the University of Illinois are “unfriendly.” This impression mostly comes from the fact that the majority of students walk straight to where they need to go with headphones in ear, completely shut out from the rest of the world. Students walk down the street with stern looks on their faces, rarely do you see someone smile or acknowledge you, other than the occasional Facebook Wall post later in the day of “I saw you on the Quad today, you didn’t notice me, though.”
Nowadays, we have so many outlets that we can turn to in order to get news. My generation looks for sports and news updates via text message and online the most. Rarely do I see someone pick up a copy of a newspaper for this purpose. This is exact why so many newspapers are not doing as well as they used to. As Rodriguez explains, “Most newspapers that are dying today were born in the nineteenth century. The Seattle Post- Intelligencer, died 2009, born 1863. The Rocky Mountain News died 2009, born 1859. The Ann Arbor News died 2009, born 1835.” Newspaper companies flourished at a time when people resorted to print for their information. Now, when there are so many other options for news, many newspaper companies are still flourishing; however, in different ways. Rather than making money through purchases of newspapers, they are making money through online subscriptions and advertisements on their web sites.
Rodriguez’s article brings some, maybe at first, misrepresented issues to the forefront. The newspaper, in America, has been a very prized artifact to older generations. I feel that, taken into consideration the older generation, there has been a significant change in the newspaper. My family never read the newspaper that much, however my father kept up with the news through different sources. In that regard my family, wasn’t really left out of the loop. Rodriguez explores this idea of value, or the value in the newspaper. Which, I too, would agree will have a long lasting impact on our future; it already has such a prominent impact on our society. The newspaper is a technology and to some it carries a nostalgic feeling. This reminds me to think of the newspaper as I would think of the pencil; it seems like it will be something that never goes away.
Over and over again, through both teachers and classmates, I have heard the inevitable decline and later termination of the newspaper. I have also heard that this is due to our movement in the digital age. I would argue that our technological advancement has a lot to do with what we view and what we subscribe to. I would then propose that newspaper are on the internet now, and be viewed by the majority of Americans. News as a media will never go away, but the media on which t is transcribed is always changing. Which in some ways opposes Rodriguez who does not “believe the decline of newspapers has been the result solely of computer technology or of the Internet.” He tends to focus on the value the paper has to the community. The newspaper is a technology that is more seen has a social artifact. It is used to communicate, to inform, and ultimately gives character to the city in which it is published. Rodriguez points to the change in community, its growing atmosphere and people that actually can build or destroy the newspaper.
Many articles we read have dealt with the technology itself, the technology as an artifact that is ever changing and evolving. I remember Baron focusing on the pencil, in so much as the mechanics are described in detail; however, at first glance the pencil may seem completely different from the newspaper. But can a pencil carry the same politics as a newspaper. I think more times than not, we tend to look at technology as something that is always growing, I think it is interesting to read an article that takes social implications and social effects into account. It may not always be that technology becomes obsolete or dies just because we find something better. A good point of departure would be to examine how the technology functions socially. Other articles seems to rely on this idea of transportation, “What’s Next?” or what can we predict in the future. While sometimes people just tend to forget about things, or stop caring. I would say, from my experience, that many people do not follow the news, whether it be on print or online. Is it fair to blame the Internet for the decline of the newspaper? In part maybe. But I would suggest that the lack of interest plays a much bigger role.
My news usually comes from anything that I randomly run across. And I will actually read a newspaper that I find, than reading about news update via the web. Then there is the public and private sphere. America is a nation that has been moving towards privacy for ages. The sense of community has gone down because access to privacy is far more important. Community ties are failing, which I agree as a lot to do with the success of the newspaper. People in Chicago read the Chicago Tribune because it “their city,” it seems that it is ones duty to care about their city. Which in essence is a nationalistic view. Rodriguez, not to slander his words, feels that cities are losing this “pride.” Then what’s next? The nation?
In this day and age, people’s identities come from outside of their communities. Hence the Christian turned Atheist or vice versa. The things in which people most readily identify with are the things that are most important to them. And the things that are most important receive the most funds. I would argue that the Internet is a community, which may oppose Rodriguez’s idea. The community doesn’t change all the time, sometimes it just relocates, it is very nomadic in a sense. To tie down community with what is produced is very one-sided. Yes, many jobs have been lost due to these changes. But, many new jobs have been created. I am not an advocate of all things digital, but I would say that occupations have been taking a huge shift to online. This is discouraging to those left outside of the loop. There is a digital divide between the newspaper and the web. They are not necessary disconnected but rather tied together by a very, very thing string.
When the city of San Francisco changed, so did the paper. People get excited about things, “good” situations at least, that happen right around them. True. But technology has allowed us to be virtually anywhere. Almost creating a global community, rather than city by city. So the big question is: How do we get people to be more involved with the community? Take away the Internet? It depends from what and where we define our identities, and to what degree we identify.
Rodriguez has a different approach to writing about literacy and technology as opposed to most of the other authors we have read. He doesn’t blame computers and the internet for the slow “death” of newspapers, but mainly focuses on how people and cities have changed. We immediately get a very strong sense of how much Rodriguez loves the newspaper, especially the San Francisco Chronicle, his hometown being very near to San Francisco, of course. The whole article is basically about San Francisco and their newspapers and culture, rather than just about newspaper culture in general. While there is still a decent amount of information on newspapers in general, the focus definitely seems to be on San Francisco more than anything. Rodriguez clearly holds the newspaper in high esteem, and misses the days when everyone read the newspaper, and apparently they were much thicker then, too, and full of plenty of information. Rodriguez seems very bitter that the newspaper isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be, and blames people, not the internet itself. Rodriguez even mentions that the people who are telling us we don’t need to go out and do things as much anymore, like shopping, (because now we can have everything we want with the click of a button,) really just want everything to themselves. They want to go out and do the real shopping, and keep others away. Many of the other articles we’ve read tend to embrace technology much more than he does, while still stressing the importance of print, yet ironically blaming the newer technologies for causing print to become a dying form. Rodriguez points out that people just don’t want to be limited to the newspaper anymore. People want access to things at whatever time suits them best, and they want access to information as soon as possible. The newspaper is just no longer a fast way to actually find out about the news. I definitely agree with Rodriguez on that point. I never read the newspaper, and I’m not about to start now. Most people I know don’t really read the newspaper anymore either, even if they are very politically savvy, because they just get their news from newspapers’ websites or CNN.com. The television doesn’t bring you the fastest news either; the absolute fastest way to get the news is online. It’s so much easier that way, too. You can visit whatever newspaper site (or multiple sites) you want, and then you can quickly access only the news you care about. It’s very simple and easy to get to different articles, and you can always just type what you’re looking for into the search engine. You can also click right onto the job postings or obituaries. You don’t have to flip through a huge newspaper to find the stories you want, and you also don’t get that greasy black ink residue on your fingers. You’re also not limited to just one or two newspapers because you can look at anything you want online. People don’t feel like waiting everyday for a newspaper to come and only being provided with certain information. When you’re searching for certain news online, it seems like you’re more in control because you can find pretty much anything you want, and you have more than enough sources to help you with your research. I also wondered what Rodriguez’s age was because it’s usually an older generation who cares more about newspapers and still reads them religiously. Rodriguez mentions he read in a newspaper that “people under thirty won’t even notice” when a newspaper dies (specifically in San Francisco). That statement would probably ring true for me. The paper my parents receive is the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and probably really wouldn’t notice if one day it just wasn’t in our driveway anymore, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t care. The only time I ever look at the paper is to read the Funnies, but that’s even only if I notice them sitting out. I never think to myself that I should go pick up a paper. Rodriguez also mentions that a woman was hit by a bus because she was too consumed with her personal mobile technologies that she wasn’t paying attention to anything else. I can definitely see that happening to many people, especially our age. We see it all the time on campus, and most of us are probably guilty of it as well. I know that I’ll be listening to my iPod while I walk and texting a friend at the same time. Usually I’m careful to look up and pay attention once I hit the crosswalks, but sometimes I really don’t pay too much attention. Ironically, I’m always annoyed by the people who do the same things that I sometimes do whenever I’m driving on campus instead of walking.
Even though I don’t read newspapers, it is still sad that newspapers are dying in different cities. Many people do love and rely on newspapers, and they help to define the city you live in. The newspapers that he mentions had been printing since the mid 1800s. That’s also a loss of many jobs, especially for writers and editors. Rodriguez often reminded me of Baron in the way that he talked about how much he loved the newspapers and can’t believe how thin they are today. I’m sure Rodriguez could relate to Thoreau and his pencils. It might not be the same technology, but it’s still the same principle. Thoreau holds pencils near and dear to his heart, while Rodriguez cannot bear to think of losing the San Francisco Chronicle.
Richard Rodriguez’s article, “Final edition: Twilight of the American newspaper” discusses the history of the written word, specifically focusing on newspapers. This article was very interesting for a number of reasons. It catches your attention from the very beginning when it tells the story of an old lady who grew up on the American prairie. She talks about a teacher she had in her one-room school that had once traveled to Chicago. While there, the teacher had even gone to the opera. The people from Chicago who were there wore very different clothes; an idea the teacher found exceedingly interesting and proceeded to tell her students about when she returned. Now all this is interesting enough, but the thing that really catches your attention and makes the story fascinating is how the woman learned to read. Since her teacher, who had no education above the eighth grade, had been to Chicago one time, she subscribed to the Chicago Tribune. This was the Sunday paper and generally arrived in their small town by Tuesday or Wednesday, but this newspaper became the tool this old lady learned to read with. Not only she learned from that newspaper, however, but several generations after her also learned from the Tribune. And the reason the teach did this was because she knew, “There was something out there. She told the class she did not expect to see even a fraction of what the world had to offer. But she hoped they might.” This was what the newspaper represented for the teacher and her students. This was a venue for opening yourself up to the world and learning about other areas and other topics. This teacher had her one experience in Chicago and wanted to provide an avenue for her students to have similar and greater opportunities to see the world.
When we read on and hear about the numerous newspapers that are closing down all across the country, it almost feels like we are losing a piece of American culture. These newspapers represented their societies, their cultures, and their cities in a manner that brought a sense of camaraderie to its people. For decades people got the paper devoted to their town. Someone from Ann Arbor, MI did not want the New York Times, they wanted the paper that talked about their town. But these barriers are breaking down. Now people want the papers from the big cities that talk about the issues going on there, the supposedly more important national issues. Yet, I know from my own family that we still care about our town paper; we receive both the Highland Park News and the Chicago Tribune. The bigger paper is important, but the smaller town paper still matters too. Families started these small town papers; they were not the massive corporations newspapers are today. The article points out how the Hearst Corporation, once a rival of the San Francisco Chronicle, now owns the San Francisco paper, despite having their headquarters in New York City. How can a company that is literally on the opposite side of the country adequately run a company so far away that they know little about and cannot keep up with the city’s culture? The answer is that they cannot. The brothers who started the San Francisco Chronicle, according to someone else from the time, “lived and died according to their notion of a newspaper’s purpose—that it should entertain and incite the population.” This was what the newspaper used to be about; entertaining the people of your town with the news specific to your town. Now, it is still largely about entertainment, but has become more of a national and even worldwide entertainment rather than the solely town oriented ones of the past.
The author makes the connection between a dying paper and a dying town. He notes that when the San Francisco Chronicle began dying out, the town began to die as well. These newspapers are not only news, but are much more. They represent the town, they represent the people, and they give life to the community. When the community begins to die and there is nothing left to write about, the newspaper inevitably begins to die. And, subsequently, the town dies with it because there is a large amount of revenue lost, but more importantly, the backbone of the community is lost. If a newspaper gets too old and out of touch, it loses its connection to the city. No longer is it a paper for everyone, but only a paper for the older generations who have different and specific interests the paper represents. Rodriguez says late in his article that “The Chronicle began to reprint Caen columns, to the bewilderment of anyone younger than thirty,” demonstrating to the reader how important it is to keep things relative to society at the time. A newspaper is not meant to meet the needs of only one group, it is meant to tell the news and to entertain.
Ironically, the thing Rodriguez particularly points to as a dying point of the Chronicle is the loss of obituaries: “As much as any vacancy in the Chronicle I can point to, the death of obituaries measures its decline.” The newspaper no longer included obituaries unless they were from famous people who had already appeared in the obituaries of more prominent papers or if the mourners paid for the obituary to appear in the paper. Before the town and newspaper was so interconnected that including obituaries was a given, but with the wedge that has come between the papers and their towns, the loss of obituaries means a loss of personal attention to the community. Once this connection with the community is lost, the paper will never survive.
Mail (will not be published) (required)
Copyright 2013. writing technologies. All Rights Reserved.
This site is powered by WordPress and uses the theme called Basic Simplicity by Michael Janzen