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Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Place Where Words Take Priority

One thing all visitors to The Trailing Edge will notice is that it's mostly text.  I'll add pictures now and then as time goes on and my technical skills improve but I doubt it'll ever be visually dazzling.  If this was a TV news program, I'd be a talking head for about 95-percent of the broadcast.  This attitude puts me pretty far outside the current media mainstream.  For the past 40 years an ongoing mantra in newspaper editorial meetings and TV newsrooms has been "More graphics!"

The trend kicked into high gear in the early 1980s when 'USA Today' was launched with lots of color and other eye-catching features that quickly attracted a huge audience.  Other papers around the country looked closely at their own formats and worried that traditional black-and-white pages suddenly seemed stodgy and outdated.  More and more attention began to focus on style rather than substance.  The equation is pretty simple:  Devoting more space to graphics leaves less space for content.

There are plenty of reasons to be critical of publications that present the news in quick, easy-to-read morsels but the undeniable reality is that American reading habits have been moving in that direction    for nearly a hundred years.  Reader's Digest came into existence in 1922 and was followed a few years later by Time magazine.  Their publishers touted the idea of "condensing" news stories as a practical way for readers to stay informed about current events while maintaining busy personal schedules in the increasingly fast-paced 20th century.  Journalists and other writers mocked that idea as nothing more than a clever marketing ploy that would actually make Americans less informed in the long run.

So here we are.  There's no turning back the clock.  Nobody will ever start a newspaper that looks like those Civil-War era editions that had 10,000 words jammed onto each page.  On the other hand,   there's nothing inherently wrong with brevity.  I keep a lot of my writing short because if I produce something good I want a reader to say, "Gee, I wish that hadn't ended so soon!" and if I produce something bad I want a reader to say, "Boy am I glad that didn't go on any longer!"

Regarding pictures--when my first humor collection came out in 1995 I spread the news by word of mouth among my friends and neighbors.  And when people learned I had written a book one question that many of them immediately asked was, "Does it have pictures?"  It caught me by surprise.  I had thought people would quickly want to know who published it, where they could find it, or how much it cost.  That was my wake-up call that pictures are important.  In fact,  both my humor collections from Catbird Press do have illustrations by the very talented Paul Hoffman and, as I said in the opening paragraph, there will be pictures appearing here very soon, and on a regular basis.

I want to express sincere thanks once again to everyone who has stopped into the bookstore and told me they enjoyed my segment on Oregon Art Beat.   It's especially nice to meet customers making their very first visit.  Independent businesses are the building blocks of a solid community.  Wherever you live, even if it's in another state, feel free to think of Annie Bloom's as your neighborhood bookseller.

1 comment:

  1. I have spent a majority of my 53 years on earth being very visual. But not artistic. That means - I talk a lot. right? Little vignettes of life are always presenting themselves in my regular everyday life and all I really want to do is be able to sketch a quick picture that would make everything that just happened so real and clear to a person I wanted to share it with.. Again - fresh out of that talent. So - that's why I'm so thankful for words and stories. Because I have a lot of good stuff to share! So - it will have to be with words, because my pictures stink. The pictures I see behind my eyes are detailed and filled with clarity. Everything I draw is a stick figure. Point being..........I am glad there are others like me who are relying on words.....thanks for being one of those people.