The myth of pixelheads

David Jordan is associate editor of BCBusiness.

I can’t help but respond to Susan Hollis’s post of August 6: “A bookish balance.”

Thanks, Susan, for speaking up on behalf of those of us who still find time for the printed word. Your suggestion that maybe the Internet hasn’t done away with the printed word is a refreshing correction to all the blather about how the Internet has set the globe spinning in a new orbit.

But you write as though the printed word is a historic relic to be preserved as a museum curiosity, as though pre-Internet research was akin to scratching glyphs on a cave wall. Yes, it’s hard to comprehend today, but we did manage to do research in the dark ages, 10 years ago, before the proliferation of personal computers and Web browsers. I worked in a pre-Google newsroom way back in 1998, and it was a little inconvenient at times, but turnaround time was hardly “Paleolithic.” We somehow managed to meet our daily deadlines. (Yes, newspapers actually came out every day—not every eon.)

Rather than suggest that today’s reader may be a hybrid of pre-Internet troglodyte and modern pixelhead, I’d go even further, and suggest that this “new generation of readers and writers addicted to the immediacy and interactivity of the Internet” is entirely mythical. Attention deficit disorder has always been with us, just as there has always been a time to browse for quick entertainment, and a time to read for more substance. These aren’t unique phenomena spawned by the Internet.

I can understand why talk of this “new generation” has gained such traction. Primarily, it makes the new generation feel important. It also makes for entertaining reading and keeps talk-show hosts in business. But ultimately, it’s just fluff spun out of nothing. Yes, the Internet marks a milestone in the history of mass media. But no, it hasn’t spawned a new species of human, unlike any that preceded it.

So here’s to you, Susan, for putting a damper on talk about the death of print. But let’s take it a step further; let’s call a moratorium on talk of this “new generation of readers.”