Thursday, January 29, 2009

talk to me.

This autumn day [21 September 1970] was the inauguration of the “Op-Ed,” the world’s first newspaper page written -- except for two staff columns -- by readers.

By creating the Op-Ed, the Times anticipated the structural media change expressed in the explosive blogosphere of today’s Internet: the shift of content from top-down to consumer-supplied.

What's more, the new concept embraced a newspaper secret: many people turn first to the letters to the editor.

From Jerelle Kraus’ All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t): Inside the New York Times Op-Ed Page (p.6).

Picked up Kraus’ title last night at the library (an amazing place I’d almost forgotten about: much like but all the books are free and you can take them home right away). The book is organized much like George Lois: On His Creation of The Big Idea, another picture book for grown ups that I just plowed through (and enjoyed every minute -- even though I paid for it) -- generous spreads with large, lush artwork and the stories behind them.

Kraus’ reference to blogging struck me because just that morning I read about John Updike (may he rest in peace) and how he was “almost blogger-like in his determination to turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words.”

Related: Recently the New York Times redesigned the way their “Inside the Times” blurbs scan visually (pages 2 & 3 of the daily paper) -- and with the redesign came a new informality of language that is entirely blog like.

I also had a brief conversation with an individual involved in the redesign of the New York Times website and she told me that the reporters have become fierce about demanding blogs of their own -- even though blogging responsibilities add additional workload to their standard column inch deliverable. It’s the immediacy they love, she told me -- being able to speak directly to folks; having them respond.

No earth shattering conclusions to share: Just marveling at how we’re making sense of the world of letters now that the bullhorn is being dispersed by a technology that 1) lets anyone have their say and 2) listens and responds.

It’s the call and response, akin to traditional storytelling, that fascinates me most of all. It’s the startling proximity between author and audience that make this emerging medium [1] so powerful.

[1] By emerging medium I mean the Social Web and those sites that are built around a Social Web architecture.

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