In the original “Ghostbusters” film (1984) paranormal scientist, Egon Spengler, proclaims, “Print is dead.”
I hesitate to contradict the venerable Dr. Spengler–clearly the superior intellect of the ecto-slime crew. But a trip back to the future would have shown him that though it has jumped from the page to the screen, print is alive and well in the twenty-first century.
Print: We create it. We receive it. We share it. Sorry, Egon. The reports of print’s death have been exaggerated.
We use words now more than ever: texting, tweeting, emailing, posting on the internet. Words still matter.
With a click or a tap, users access what they want to read. Books. Newspapers. Political opinions. Movie reviews. Sports statistics. Presidential tweets. On December 12, President Trump tweeted 91 times before noon. Even at 140 characters a pop, that’s a lot of reading.
Reading still satisfies our curiosity: Hank Aaron’s lifetime batting average. Jim Morrison’s resting place. The actor who played the Cowardly Lion. The year the first music video premiered.
From the comfort of our couches, we can conduct scholarly research that once demanded presence in a library and/or that magical medium: microfiche.(Try explaining that to college freshmen!) We can brush up on literary criticism–what would Wordsworth do? JFK’s Inaugural Address is there in black and white–“Ask not what your country can do for you!” The history of the Apollo program is forever afloat in cyber space.
If you want to read it, likely you can pull it up on your screen.
But… there is always a “but,” right? Though readers can easily and quickly locate info on almost any topic, caveat emptor.
…In the stone age, in my previous life, I was a journalism student. We scrawled on spiral notepads and sometimes slung bulky 35 mm film cameras around our necks, operating on the this acronym: FACT. Fast. Accurate. Concise. True. Among the Fordham faculty, accuracy and truth took precedence over speed. However, truth is less true today and accuracy is too often an afterthought. Readers today beware: what you read may or may not conform to past standards.
Access to information morphs at warp speed, and readers, too, must adapt. As educators, the responsibility to manage technology weighs heavily on us. Because we have access to so much material today, being able to read critically is more crucial than Dr. Spengler could have imagined. And this is why must continually remind our students–and ourselves– about healthy skepticism. Evaluate sources. Look for bias. Demand credentials. Just because it pops up on our screens fast and is concise doesn’t verify it as either true or accurate.
And if we must shift gears as readers in this age of print overload, as writers we have even an even heavier responsibility to remember that words matter. But that is another post, for another day.