There’s nothing more intriguing, exciting and – depending on your point of view – disturbing than watching an old industry try to hang on as a tsunami of innovation sweeps up the shore, smashes everything in its wake, and leaves the landscape forever altered.
The list is very long. Horse, meet car. Blacksmith, meet mechanic. Vacuum tube, meet semiconductors.
And you have to feel for the newspapers: first the telegraph, then radio, then TV. Beating them to the stories and, more importantly, to the advertisers’ hearts, black though those may be.
You know that radio and TV couldn’t help gloating over the distress of the lowly scribes. Tell me you didn’t, and I’ll call you Pinocchio: They weren’t pretty, they didn’t sound good, they often dressed funny. All they could do, at the best of times, was write. And as they lay on the carpet bleeding and bruised, along came the Internet and gave ’em another boot to the kidneys.
Even ‘Advertising Age’ – that print-based indicator of what was once right and then suddenly all wrong in their world – turned on them with a vengeance last year with a cover graph showing their riches-to-rags decline with this screamer of a headline: The Newspaper Death Watch!
But guess what, folks? The Internet is an equal opportunity spoiler. What’s bad news for the goose is also bad news for the gander. It isn’t just stomping on newspapers. It’s flailing away at every other traditional medium that insists on living in the past. And it’s only going to get bigger, meaner, and less concerned about the way things were.
I’ve told a story many times about my first day in broadcast television. Instead of a day of training – promises, promises – I was told I’d have to do a story. And by the way, it’s out of town. What they didn’t tell me was the editor they fed me to had started the day before. Now I’m a multi-tasking kind of guy and had a dozen years of print / radio freelancing behind me, but that was a hell of a day. Two $&#*? hours to edit a 2-minute piece made me slightly crazy. When they called down and said ‘Oh, by the way, you’re top of the show…”
And we missed it.
Despite the Holly Hunter rush through the station (“Which way is VTR? Right. Thanks. Gotta go…”)
Not by much – a few seconds while the 3/4 inch deck went through it’s gyrations – but enough to make the #2 slot.
So I stood at the back of the studio – watched the show go down – and despite the trial by fire and the screwup – felt pretty damn good.
Show’s over, everybody’s bailing out. Somebody intros me to the director.
“Hi. I’m George. I’m the new guy.”
He looks at me, looks at my hand like it’s a day-old slice of pizza pulled from a dumpster and says: “The fucking show starts at 6.” And walks away.
But not any more, pal.
Copyright 2009 George Butters
Used with permission
All Rights Reserved