Monthly Archives: December 2009

Ro Sham Bo: Paper Beats All

Books can be burned, documents can be shredded, but paper is still eternal.

It sounds contradictory, but even in today’s digital environment where technology is constantly changing, print media isn’t going to disappear.

In recent years, traditional media of all sorts—from newspapers to vinyl records—have proven that people continue to hold value in them.

Compared to the fleeting nature of all things digital, the physical version is comfortably stable.

This stability, however, isn’t always a good thing.

The eternal nature of paper refers not only to the notion that paper products will continue to be valued by society, but also to the fact that what is committed to paper is permanent.

Content is fleeting on the Web, and mistakes can be corrected at any time. The same cannot be said of print. There is no “undo” button for paper, though some may wish for one.

I would bet that after an unforgiving interview with Rachel Maddow, author Richard Cohen is one of those left wishing.

The Ugandan government is using Cohen’s book “Coming Out Straight” as justification for anti-gay legislation that could allow the government to give homosexuals the death penalty.

In Maddow’s interview, she quoted the book to Cohen, who admitted that some information is incorrect and will be removed from the next edition.

Unfortunately the damage is already done.

I’m not saying that print is the cause of all this mess, but what is committed to paper is taken more seriously than what is on the Web, whether we like it or not.

The constancy of paper is what makes me both eager and cautious of my future as a journalist. I hope that what I contribute will have a lasting impression, but I must take care to make it the right one.


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