A colleague showed me a column in The Wall Street Journal this week by former publisher L. Gordon Crovitz. It concerned a 2006 conversation he had had with Steve Jobs, in which the Apple CEO told Crovitz that by 2011 printed newspapers would be dead. "Whenever I have the time to pick up the printed version of the newspaper," Jobs said, "I wish I could do this all the time, but our lives are not like that any more."
Jobs, who died last week, was a visionary, this generation's Thomas Edison, but he was human. He made mistakes. Remember the Apple Pippin? The Rokr phone? MacKeeper? The Apple Newton? Probably not. Those were but a few of Jobs' visions that didn't pan out.
The death of print newspapers is another instance where, in hindsight, Jobs was off the mark. Sure, daily newspapers have taken a financial hit and are still trying to figure out ways to make the economics of print journalism profitable, but lots of them are still around. The Commercial Appeal is pitching mobile apps and has set up a pay-wall on its website that encourages people to subscribe to the print product. The jury is still out on that experiment, I suspect, but I wish them well. Unlike Jobs, I do have time to pick up the printed product and hope to continue to be able to do so.
In fact, hundreds of print magazines, here and around the globe, are thriving. Weekly papers like the Flyer are still trucking along nicely, proving that there is a market for local newsprint.
But the Flyer has changed enormously in the past few years. We have a snappy website that offers fresh content daily. Our staff has had to adapt, as well, to the brave new world of digital content. That's why you'll see our veteran political editor tweeting live updates from school board meetings. It's why our film and music editor also covers the Grizzlies and why our news editor blogs about gay issues and has a nationally popular vegan cooking blog. In fact, everyone on the editorial staff, from the interns to the editors, is blogging and reporting online, tweeting, getting the Flyer's content — and our brand — out there into the community on a daily basis.
There's another Steve Jobs quote that I like better than his prediction about the death of print: "Let's go invent tomorrow rather than worrying about what happened yesterday." That works for me.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare
Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.