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I don’t know, because I’m not a meteorologist. I’m not a diviner either, which is why I can’t say whether or not my kids will ever know what a daily print paper is.

What I can see is that a lot of papers are dying, but at the same time, a lot of papers are still in circulation. The decline of papers is a lot more complicated. Papers are moving online, but I don’t really think the main issue should be the battle between print and the Web. Print and the Web can help each other, they just need to learn how to work together

To me print will always have a niche, there will always be people who want that physical copy to peruse whenever they chose to. I feel like there will always be uses for paper (scroll to about the middle of the page), and not just in the bathroom. 

Highlighting a textbook is easier than doing it on a Kindle. Magazines are often more fun to experience somewhere that doesn’t have instant Internet access. Papers are easier to concentrate on in a silent library, away from the click-clack of keyboards and hum of monitors. 

I’m not saying the only people to stay with print are going to be neo-Luddites, but I do think it takes a certain kind of person to still appreciate print. Right now people are being exposed to a whole lot of things Online, but at the end of the day they’ll want to pick up a paper to get all the facts. It just feels different than reading it in 140 characters on Twitter.

I’m not sure of anything, but I do know I’ll be wearing rain-boots tomorrow.

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The Website is a lie

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but somehow it doesn’t feel that way when it comes to the Web. Instead it feels like someone is stealing. 

Though there are copyright rules (look toward the end of the article), which still apply online, it’s hard to really police everything. Something is going to slip through the cracks, like a fake site looking a lot like the real thing. I’ve seen this before in different incarnations, usually around April Fool’s Day. 

A craft site parodied itself by making their entire site about macrame. Harry Potter fan sites have taken jabs at each-others sites by posting fake stories about the people in charge. Afterwards both sites explain that it was merely a joke, but what about for those people who don’t see that disclaimer? 

One of the scary things about the Web is that everything could be taken seriously. For journalists that means that reporting the facts should be an even higher priority. We need people to be able to recognize a name, and therefore the real URL. 

We aren’t going to be able to stop people from making fake sites that look a lot like the real thing, but we can try to stand out enough for readers to recognize the real thing.

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What three things are not on the World Wide Web? It doesn’t take “Carnac the Magnificent” to see that not everything is contained within the vortex of the Web.  

After hours of searching I can come up with supposed recipes for the artery clogging monstrosity that is a “Bloomin’ Onion.” How do I know that none of those recipes are real? Because none include the only reasonable ingredient that would explain why people continue to eat it; cocaine. 

All jokes aside, there are a vast amount of things on the Web that exist in the real world, but nothing online can compare to the real thing. Over the summer I went to a Zydeco festival in New Orleans and after it was over I went home and searched for the artists I had heard perform. I was shocked to find very few, if any, mentions of the bands. Not only that, I couldn’t find one of their songs online. 

Even though I may never get to hear Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys blasting out of my computer from a music site, I know they exist. Just like I know no matter how many recipes for a “Bloomin’ Onion” I find, none will compare to eating the real thing.

The Web is a great place to get a taste of what is in the real world, but it does not contain all the aspects of the world. Though the Web is very visually appealing, I can’t smell the roses from a picture, just as much I can’t experience walking through a garden barefoot from watching a clip.

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I’m an Internet phobic. I’ll admit this. I’d rather use the Web in ignorance than try to begin to wrap my mind around how it actually works. I have no problem playing games or watching videos for hours. Writing blogs and editing the font size is usually the most invested I get in understanding code. 

Why am I afraid? Better yet, why are others afraid? I think it all stems from the fact that the online world is so massive, and so limitless, that to begin to understand it, even on a basic level, seems overwhelming. How can you possibly understand something that is constantly changing? 

We shouldn’t fear online advances though. We should attempt to embrace the benefits it offers, but not force people to go out of their comfort zone. Through gradual trial and error we can see what aspects on the World Wide Web will be used the most and attempt to teach people earlier on how it works. 

Blogs, for example, can be created in a minute by anyone. Should people therefore be taught how to blog? Yes and no. I think through exploring on my own I feel more comfortable with the Web, and I’m sure others feel that same way. When no one is looking over my shoulder and grading me I don’t feel as scared. Yet, having standards, whether within a classroom or in a group of my peers, makes me want to do a better job and makes me want to learn. 

I guess in the end it comes down to expectations. My generation is expected to know the ins and outs of online, and rather than be resistant to this, we should accept it because in the end we can only benefit.

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I caught the bug

I never thought I would be a scanner. I’ve always loved reading books cover to cover. If I get a reading assignment for class I will read every page, including the footnotes and random pullouts. Or I used to. Over the last year I’ve been spending much more time online, which means I’m reading more online. Like any seasoned online reader I have mastered the art of scanning, and I realized it has carried over into my material world.

Instead of reading the article or chapter first, I look at the pretty pictures and big text. I’ve devolved to my kindergarten self that preferred the picture books over the words. According to the Poynter study I’m not the only one.

What should media do about this? Should papers have to change the online versions of their stories drastically just to get someone to view it? It’s already hard enough trying to incorporate multimedia, now we have to totally redesign an article. I’m no fan of shovelware, but I’m not about to spend hours out of my day making a page acceptable to the online reader, only to have them scroll over it in a minute.

Adapting newspapers to online, iPhones and other technology has its benefits, but I feel it can also lead to the slow downward spiral of societies ability to read. Focusing on what the reader wants, and what the reader needs aren’t always overlapping ideals. I don’t think it would be such a bad thing to challenge readers to eat their veggies by reading instead of just spoon-feeding them the dessert they want.

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Journalists can learn how to be more in tune with their audiences from bloggers. Focusing on communities and their needs can make a newspaper more appealing to a certain group of people who may have felt like their needs were not being met. In a culture that has a “daily me” it’s not going to be enough to simply cover city council meetings or the local reaction to a football game. Neighborhoods are interested in the problems construction is causing, or the recent string of burglaries.

 

According to Keith Jenkins a focus on “visual communication” is going to be vital for journalists to compete with bloggers. Offering articles and multimedia online can also appeal to the online generation, which is constantly growing. Supportive links can be added to stories and slideshows or videos that compliment the story can be easily accessed. 

 

Another issue is maintaining old audiences while appealing to new audiences. The key to keeping both sides happy is a focus on being hyperlocal. Encouraging blogs, microsites and even user-generated content on the newspaper’s Web site could make all the difference. Publishing more localized stories in the actual paper has the potential to keep the traditionalists happy as well. 

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A new culture

I’m no expert on elfs, and I never thought I would need to be until I came across Elftown. The site, a combination of community and wikis revolves entirely around elfs. Members contribute to the wikis and participate in contests, all, of course, focused on elfs. Upon further inspection it’s easy to see how this isn’t just an online community, it’s an online village. 

The members are creating their own culture. They have their own identities, which are tied to their names. They have a hierarchy, which is respected. The art they produce, sometimes together and sometimes individually, all revolves around the same thing. 

The site has managed to bring people with a common interest together, but in doing so they’ve created a culture almost worthy of an ethnography. If the community wasn’t virtual, and all these people lived together in the real world, I’m sure they’d be featured in an issue of National Geographic. 

I feel like the reason why online communities become so popular is because of the anonymity of it all. In reality I don’t walk down the street and see people dressed as elfs, or anime characters, and I probably never will.

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