That’s All She Wrote?

BooksThe book manuscript is done and off to the publishers.  An advantage of such long reviews and rewrites that often are part of hardcopy publication is that the writer takes more time, and presumably takes more care, to notice errors and omissions, then correcting them before the world sees the work. This particular work — Social Media and Participatory Democracy: Public Notice and the World Wide Web, Peter Lang Publishers — took a full year to complete, though I have been working on the topic since I began my academic career (ssshhhhh! 20 years ago).

The necessity of the work was actually brought to my attention, like all right and proper things, by my parents who were career newsies.  My father’s mother, my grandmother, misunderstood my father’s job when he told her he bought newspapers for a living.  She wondered aloud to me how one made a living buying the morning paper each day.  Many a newspaper staffer has wondered similarly if one can make a living producing a newspaper each morning.

Perhaps news production is in the blood.  It certainly seems to be in mine.  In all my academic work I find myself quietly longing for the newsroom.  Every chance I get — sabbaticals or fellowships — I return to the live action that can only be found in deadline work where accomplishment is  measured in minutes rather than months or years. Even as I write this I am momentary jazzed.

The news business is relentless, hard work, much like the food industry and teaching, I think.  Every day brings fresh demands and every cycle rolls along taunting each working member, from foot soldier to management, front desk to back shop, with the prospect of triumph and the expectation of falling just a bit short of full success.

Public notices are both a part of the news and a part of government.  It is that place where the astute mind and the savvy eye present just enough to satisfy the law, and the quick mind and nimble eye see the story behind the information presented.  The success of public government depends on all of these elements working well together.

As the world increasingly goes digital, the format for news has moved from paper to the web.  In some ways this is very, very good. More is available to a greater portion of the world, and corners are harder to find for hiding.

But in some ways the speed and reach of the digital platform encourages us to focus on the advantages without noticing what we may have lost when we dashed through both reading and writing the news, a sort of “throwing out the baby with the bath water” effect.

In those moments of paper-platform production, the reporter, the writer, the editor and the production posse have an opportunity to step back and notice the error of thought, the omission of fact and the misaligned margins.

Pushing the “send” button is so easy, and I am grateful for that facility, but it often robs the knowledge-building process of tightness, clarity and rigor if the person pushing the “send” button doesn’t take the time to step back, take a breath, and think.

My hope for this year-long endeavor — my book — is to encourage everyone in any kind of important, community position to pause just before “send” and focus on the value of what they are doing.

(image: www.lacrosselibrary.org – 311 × 362)

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