Poems from newspaper clippings that don’t suck.

Austin Kleon art from newspaper

From Austin Kleon.

Austin, if you’re reading this, hi. I saw you in 2012 at the Penn Bookstore. Glad you enjoyed your falafel from Mamas. That is the city’s best. Now that I think of it, I may have made you a list of things to do and given it to you after the lecture. I made it during your lecture. Sorry if that is rude. I think you said you were leaving town right after the lecture, but that you would save it for next time.

I hope you weren’t just being polite.

Via {Christopher Wink/Twitter}.

Why do we follow the news?

I think I follow the news for two reasons.

1: The lofty reason people like telling themselves. “It makes me a more informed citizen” and so “I can vote smarter.” As pointed out in this great podcast episode about it from Freakonomics, Why do we really follow the news?, it doesn’t really affect my life one way or the other if I know certain facts. As journalist Mitchell Stephens said:

I think very little of the news actually today is of practical value. For one thing, we don’t live in a society that has all that many threats encroaching upon us. You know, most of us live pretty safe lives. And most of us know where to find food in the supermarket. Most of us know where to look for romance, where to live our social lives. So I think a lot of the functions that news used to perform way back when in hunter-gatherer times, in preliterate societies, it’s no longer performing regularly. Yet our itch to be aware, to know what’s going on around us, remains.

2: For the story. As economist Matthew Gentzkow touched put it:

There’s a lot of research in psychology about the importance of telling stories and building narratives for people. People like to look at their own lives as a story. They like to see kind of the arc of the challenges that they overcame and define themselves as a character in that story. And to me that makes a lot of sense of why we care so much about news, because if what I’m thinking about all the time is my own life story and my own role in it, then you know, what’s happening in the world around me is the context that that story’s happening in.

So there ya go. Give it a listen.

Old School Meets New School

© occupied media

Fascinating read about the enduring utility of print newspapers during social movements by David Carr on the New York Times website. (Potential bias of a newspaper writing about another newspaper: identified and acknowledged.)

“The act of one person giving another person a newspaper is important,” said Arun Gupta, one of dozens of people who helped put together The Occupied Wall Street Journal. “We wanted to come up with something that was beautifully designed and well-written that gives a tangible form to what is under way.” A call for the financing of the pop-up, instant newspaper went out on Kickstarter.com at the end of last month. An ad hoc group set out to raise $12,000 and has now surpassed $75,000. …Mr. Gupta edited the newspaper, along with Michael Levitin, a former Associated Press journalist, and Jed Brandt, a writer and activist, was the lead designer. Dozens of other people pitched in. A second issue hit the streets on Saturday, along with a Spanish edition of the first issue.

I think Carr’s article also neatly illustrates the powerful confluence of technology, activism and old-school media. The Occupy newspaper likely wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the financial crowd sourcing catalyst, Kickstarter. The newspaper itself was undoubtedly created and distributed using the most up-to-date digital technologies.

The exciting thing about our time is that we have the ability to choose between mediums, and have the resources to leverage the one that has the most efficacy for any given moment or purpose.

I don’t think free tablet computers will get people to subscribe to your newspaper

But who am I to say?

Eager to hop on the tablet trend, the publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News plans to sell discounted Android tablets with preloaded content.

Initially, the tablets will be loaded with the Philly.com app, as well as digital versions of the two newspapers, which now cost $2.99 per week.


Needed Summation

The thing I like best about the New Yorker (besides the illustrations) is that it consistently summarizes national events in a careful, thought-provoking way. Newspapers just don’t fill a need anymore — breaking news coverage has been offered by television and the internet for the past decades. TV doesn’t work because it’s one-sided; the Internet often lacks patience and perspective.

For me, The New Yorker is an ideal compromise. It often predicts big stories, offering an in-depth analysis of events that other news outlets can’t afford (in time or dollars) to provide. (Like this week’s detailing of Britain’s dire financial situation.) The New Yorker can afford to put its reporters in far away places long term, giving readers a nuanced view of life in Afghanistan, Iran, Washington D.C., etc.

All this is to say that Margaret Talbot’s piece in this week’s Talk of the Town, “Pride and Prejudice,” is not so much an up-to-the-minute perspective on the suicide of 18 year old Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, but a welcomed summary that connects the dots and puts the tragic event into a larger context. As a society, we are becoming more and more accepting of gays and lesbians — but as we make strides toward equality, the hatred of an outspoken minority becomes ever more voracious.

Ms. Talbot addresses the other major issue in this story: the abhorrent invasion of Clementi’s privacy and, as Talbot coins it, a “culture of exposure.”

Clementi lived in a world where filming your roommate in his most intimate moments and broadcasting the results without his knowledge represents a difference in degree, if not in kind, from a lot of online behavior.

She continues:

Young people discovering their identity and their desires need a zone of privacy where they can be who they are, perhaps in the company of another human being, without feeling that somebody else might be tweeting it, filming it, or blogging about it, or that maybe they themselves ought to be—there’s such a thing as violating your own privacy, too. The unobserved life is so totally worth living. ♦

Read the whole article here.