Forward and Back

I’ll grab my soap box, and deep thought pose and with a deep breath… get going in this all annecdotal, unresearched or referenced mind dump.

In the news this week, there were two stories about local newspapers shuttering in Canada. The first is CBC Sunday Edition’s story on Moose Jaw losing it’s paper (podcast) and the second is from CANADALAND (podcast) – edit and Day Six (podcast). While these stories are similar and are only related enough to the point I want to make as to inspire this post, they point to the demise of what one could easily say is the most common form of storytelling that we have only lost in the past few years.

Newspapers, magazines, and letters used to be the way stories were told. The length of the story connoted some measure of quality. It used to (and some would say still does), cost a significant sum of blood and treasure to put together a story that fully and rationally explore an idea. Perhaps “back in the day” stories were better balanced to ensure that everyone would have some element of their voice heard. This lead to the idea that if it was in print, the story must be true.

But then as the cost of printing fell, voices started to separate. As more individuals could access the means to publish, the number of publications increased, and to be well read meant that one had to access more sources and those sources, to capture more people reduced the size of their stories. Quickly getting to the point of their argument.

Today we find ourselves in a sound bite and headline world, having slipped down a slippery slope. The co-efficient of friction and the slope continue to move in opposite directions to a point that wants to move stories in front of us so fast, that they are there and have had us react before we even know that we do through the use of managed newsfeeds and predictive algorithms.

These older stories used to have value because they provided insight about the past. Seemingly, it was the past that was the most important part about the art of storytelling – be it the news or epics about heroes. Now it seems that the value of a story is all about how close, and how amusingly it can get a glimpse about the future. So how do we get around this to use stories as a tool to teach when the very tool that we want to use is/has/or will change?

Is it worth trying to use an old tool in a new world?