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–

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