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An Open Letter to Old Media
Oct 14, 1998 :: Greg Knauss

Dear Old Media,

Stop it, OK? Just stop it. It's for your own good. I'm not trying to be rude or anything, but, really, this is from a friend: You're embarrassing yourself.

Flash doesn't suit you, old chum. Nor does reader participation, nor paragraph-long info-nuggets, nor any of that crap that's supposed to be the wave of the future. Consider it a compliment: you're not cut out for superficiality. Maybe you're feeling old, all decked out in that moth-eaten gray suit you always wear, but stuffing your middle-aged ass into spandex doesn't help matters.

Old Media, you are not the Web. Please don't try to be. We all love you the way you are.

Take the LA Times, for example. The good, old LA Times. I used to love the Times; it was the paper I grew up with. But earlier this year, I dropped my subscription -- and I don't miss it, not one bit. It's a shame, but sentimentality is the only thing that makes me feel that way. The LA Times has become a drooling simpleton.

There's this section, "Life & Style"? It's awful, deeply and abidingly awful. There, in print, is everything that people are supposed to want from New Media. And it's like watching a slow-motion car accident.

Once or twice a week, "Life & Style" becomes a picture book, titled "What the Camera Saw." No text, mind you, save brief captions -- just "What the Camera Saw." It's as eerie as the newspapers in Farenheit 451. Every day, half the first inside page of "L&S" is taken up with the abominable "Laugh Lines," a rehash of the previous night's talk show monologues and bowel-rattlingly bad reader-submitted jokes. The only distraction -- like the stench of vomit being covered by decaying meat -- is the children's version, right next to it. This summer, "L&S" even run a serialized romance novel, for God's sake.

It doesn't work. "Life & Style" thinks it's a Web site -- catchy graphics; user-produced content; serialization; tiny, easy stories -- and it does. Not. Work. God in heaven, does it not work.

See, Old Media? Do you see how ridiculous it sounds, laid out like that? People are laughing at you. You're good at what you do, man, sometimes even great. Don't throw that away because some hot-shot, snot-nosed kid is grabbing all the attention.

Yes, OK. You've got your own disreputable siblings -- too many to count, actually -- and they pioneered all this flashy, surface, talk-to-me nonsense long before the Web came along. But you had always ignored them, and rightly so. USA Today wasn't a model, but a pariah. Talk radio was a ghetto. The tabloids... I'm not even going to mention the tabloids.

You were always better than that, Old Media. Don't let New Media convince you otherwise. That punk is headed for a fall, anyway.

Look, somebody has to be the adult here and it's sure as hell isn't going to be the Web. Why not you? You've been pretty good at it so far.

Please, Old Media -- come back. We miss you.

-- Greg Knauss is an irregular contributor to Stating the Obvious. He has also written for Suck, Fray, After Dinner, Rewired, Soundbitten and TeeVee.



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