When I entered journalism school 20 years ago, the Internet was still the new kid on the block. Getting around “online” was confusing at best. I still remember looking at Lexus/Nexus on a classroom computer and entering the name “Steven Speilberg.” In an instant, all of Speilberg’s films popped up on the screen, along with a whole bunch of other information I was sure the public ought not be seeing — like his home address and phone number.
“Holy Shit!” I thought. “I can’t believe this exists.”
But though the Internet loomed large on campus as the future of information gathering, it was making only a small dent in my own education. All my professors were crusty, loveable old men who had spent their careers with rotary-dial telephones pinned to their ears. In their day, history was recorded in archive rooms, where newspaper clippings were meticulously labeled and retrieved by hand. Theirs was the Woodward-and-Bernstein era of journalism. Pull the clip; make the call; hit the pavement: those were your options. The Internet just didn’t figure into things.
Over the next 10 years, that all changed. We got computers, e-mail addresses. We began exploring the Web, finding out what it could do and where it could take us. The Holy Shit factor subsided. Today, like everybody else, I get irritated when I can’t find some piece of information on my first Google search. I get impatient when a video takes more than a second to load. I read books on my iPad. I use Twitter.
But while I’ve evolved in how I want to retrieve my information, I’ve had a hard time evolving when it comes to how I want to dispense it. I still struggle with the idea of blogging. I have that old-school instinct to hold back information from readers, show it to editors, revise and revise and revise before finally — FINALLY — sending it to the printing press. The idea of putting stuff out there instantly and then finding out I over-simplified it, or made an assumption, or got something flat-out wrong because a crusty old editor wasn’t there to put me straight — well, it’s enough to upset my nervous system something fierce.
And yet, despite all that, here I am. And there you are.
I do hope I’m able to keep up. I hope that I can synthesize my thoughts briefly, quickly, and accurately — and make do without the oversight to which I’ve become so comfortably accustomed. It will be a challenge, but maybe you will turn out to be a forgiving sort.
Maybe I will, too.