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The Story and The Clip: Keeping Life Present

Reading Newspapers

We are storytellers.

Many years ago, when I was in the public relations business, the news cycles were much longer. I would read 4 or 5 newspapers a day– morning and evening editions. You could easily watch the set of stories being reported change over the days. Some stories had legs, others came and went, filling out the rest of the paper. Seasonal and evergreen stories came around each year like clockwork. We also had a news clipping service that tracked our clients’ names. A room full of people read the paper each day and clipped out the stories put them in an envelope and mailed them to us. Looking at the patterns of syndication, you could see how stories spread from one newspaper to another. That way of making sense of the stories we tell each other is no longer an efficient method to yield the storyline of our culture.

Sunday is a great news day. The newspapers are filled to the brim– I still like to read at least three; and the morning political talk shows are filled with news maker interviews and analysis. While I still filter through a large stack of newsprint to find the most interesting clips of the day, my methods have had to evolve. By the way, here are a few pointers from this morning:

The digital record of our history is piling up around us, providing an inexhaustible supply of frozen transcripts to hold over our heads and point at. So much is gathered into the digital archive, how can we make sense of it now? How do we turn it into a story we can understand?

Woody Guthrie jams

I now depend on a variety of filters to snag the best bits, the most important clips from Sunday’s output and drop pointers to them into the Tw*tter stream. I want the best clips, no matter what their source. The publication I read is jam session assembled every day by¬† a circle of freelance editors I’ve discovered on the Network.

The new models of journalism work on this same basis. Both The Huffington Post and Tina Brown’s new vehicle, The Daily Beast, break down the walls separating a particular publication from the rest of the Network. It’s the pointers that are valuable, not the walls around the garden of a publication. More and more we’re seeing those hyperlinks pointing to both professional and amateur sources; both inside and outside of a publication; both inside and outside this country. The sense of the space of a publication has profoundly changed.

The sense of time has changed as well. The old news cycles were based on the physical processes required to write, edit, typeset, print and deliver a newspaper. The new cycles are based on both the new technologies and the fact that life unfolds in real time. It is continuous, it always has been. Access to the raw real time feed is important, but it’s in the clips and stories that we memorialize our lives. It’s the pointer I send you, and the one you send me, that helps me make sense of what just happened.

Published in zettel