Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Change: Possibly for the Better

In my last post, I shared with you something I wrote while in my final years as a J-school student. That article, published for a newsletter, was written in December 1995, almost 15 years ago, when I was much younger. (I am now 52.)

That was a watershed year, So, what took place in 1995?: This is before blogs, before social-networking sites, when the Web was at its infancy, and was not yet such a predominant force in people's lives. Emails were just beginning to shape people's communication needs, and dial-up modems of 56K were the norm. Some analysts had predicted that the Net would be a failure, including this noteworthy article in Newsweek. Well, the writer was wrong, and has admitted such.

Well, as it has been aptly said, things have changed. They undoubtedly have, and while I applaud the changes over-all, inasmuch as it has allowed us to communicate more effectively, I am of two minds as to whether the medium will see improved quality of writing.

Studies and anecdotal posts from my writing and editing colleagues bear this out (See, for example, Regret the Error and Slate.com). Writing for the most part has become more sloppy, as grammatical and spelling errors have, sadly, become the norm for many mainstream dailies. As for websites, many are riddled with errors, crying for a professional writer and editor to bring the writing to an acceptable standard.

The reasons are many, including the lay-offs of proof-readers and editors, the 24-hour news cycle, and the media becoming more of a business in search of higher profits. The net result is that news editors have more constraints and less resources to shape a news story. While the explosion of new technology has resulted in articles that contain errors, it has also opened the door to democratic journalism. Blogs are but one example of this trend.

And it's not all bad. It has allowed ordinary people, some with extra-ordinary abilities, talents and skills to showcase their creative skills to an audience seeking it. So, yes, as a writer, I bemoan the lowering of editorial content. But as a human seeking connections, I applaud the new technologies for bringing people together to share their talents. The latter trumps the former. Over-all that's a good change.

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