Pod-ner in Time

Isn’t the Internet wonderful, with all of that information available in an instant? Crusty people like me have taken to it in varying degrees of speed and intensity, while everyone under 30, from most of my office to three nephews and niece (in their 20s), didn’t need to learn it, for high electronics is their birthright.

I see the Internet as largely text, and thus a not-so-difficult heir to newsprint. My eldest nephew (reared in Los Angeles now a proud New Yorker) disagreed when I saw him in Joplin on July 4. He’s a newshound — God bless the young — but relies on streaming video and audio podcasts, multitasking while working. If something catches his attention like political or economic news (not drunk celebrities), he’ll finish the, well, broadcast, then click to for details in text.

This may be a generational barrier. I surf with some agility, but podcasts and videos pull my patience. Get on with it. Gimme info! When writing goes into tangents I don’t need or get bored by, I skim to the points.

Heard or seen reports hold the recipient hostage; fast-forwarding is imprecise. What do you look at while taking in an audio podcast or MP3? If it’s Web pages, you often lose what you’re hearing. What do you see when it’s Web video? Low resolution and mistimed sound. How is it that TVs get bigger and clearer and at the same time young people watch shows on their cell phones and DVD movies on laptops?

A decent writing site (address withheld to protect the guilty), offers tips for the daily regimen. We all can stand to improve. Some are in the form of audio feeds. A man and woman narrate most of them, and the first half-minute is conversational and intriguing. Yet early in the second minute impatience begins. If the information, similarly informal, was typed — that is, keyboarded — out, I’d get the message and may even print it for future reference or email to someone else.

Friends of mine have expanded into video columns. They’re fun but not new: Robert Benchley as always was there first, even winning an Oscar for one, back in 1935.

We communicators short-change if not short-circuit ourselves when we mischoose our medium. Curmudgeonly, I also grow weary of question-and-answer written profiles of otherwise fascinating people. Journalists are gatekeepers. Readers, listeners and viewers nearly all of the time expect us to edit, to summarize, to point out what’s worth emphasis.

This is not across-the-board. One can see an actor or director’s work yet be drawn to how they think, which can be shown with great clarity in a well-conducted yet closely edited Q-and-A. Please delete the er’s and uh’s, as well as the repetitions, especially those of the questioner.

In my last year of college I had no time for TV so read all the details about the 1979-80 detention of dozens of Americans within their embassy in Tehran, Iran. I thought I understood. But the first times I saw that new program, ABC News’ Nightline, the scene blew me away — the taunts by huge crowds, the burning of the Stars and Stripes — providing a necessary component of information, night after night. As the 20th century closed, print finally proved insufficient.

Long-form video can be enchanting. That would be C-SPAN. Last weekend C-SPAN2 featured a three-hour interview and call-in with the intellectual political writer Christopher Hitchens. I watched it 1 1/2 of the three times it aired over Labor Day weekend. This angry man’s eyes teared up twice, about his children and his mother. He famously does not suffer fools but showed gentle tolerance with homely callers who with sincerity disagreed with him.

That time was so well spent I’d download a summary of the transcript. -30-