Of Footnotes and technology

Published 11:37 pm Friday, December 9, 2011

George sat at the booth and shook his head.

“What did we ever do before cell phones?” he grumbled, pointing across the table at his teenage grandsons. Both were hunched over their phones, oblivious to the world around them, racing to see who could first find the answer to a trivia question raised during the conversation. “Really, what did we do?”

“Well, we had to wait until we got home to look up the answer in the dictionary,” I quipped back.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

And he laughed, shaking his head. “I guess this technology is just passing me by.”

At 84-years-young, my father firmly resists joining the information age. Oh, he has a cell phone and uses it daily for calls. But he refuses to text. Or email. Or even read his daily newspaper online, preferring the print version and his cup of coffee every morning at the kitchen table.

And when you talk about a blog, his eyes glass over. “What is a blog? Is that like the blob?”

But don’t let his outward grumpiness fool you. He appreciates the seismic shift in society that’s occurred during his lifetime. He’s lived through the age of radio, the rise of television, the advent of computers that filled entire rooms and, now, the age of instant access to information – through our phones, our computers, even our television screens. He may grumble and resist, but he remains in awe of the changing dynamic of communication.

Communication and information are the commodity of modern journalism: gathering, reporting, informing, sharing, sparking community conversations, it’s all a part of the core of journalism in the modern age.

And just this week, I had a “George” moment: that instant where I felt suddenly behind the technology curve, and I don’t mean just because I’m still toting an archaic Blackberry instead of an iPhone.

Nope. It was the videos.

Wes Johnson, our sports editor, has been exploring ways to utilize our website for months. He launched a weekly podcast – Sports Café – and even hosted a live podcast from a high school playoff game earlier this fall. He’s posted some video clips of games and interviews.

But we stepped up our game this week when Robbyn Brooks, our newest staff writer, joined the newsroom. With a background in both broadcast and print journalism, she’s intuitively focused on partnering images and videos with the written word. And she was posting video faster than I could say, “What do you think about …”

She’s upped our Twitter game, challenging all of us to make better use of that valuable tool for communicating and sharing with you, our readers.

And together she and Wes have propelled our staff into the blogosphere … starting a series of daily blogs focused on sports (TrojanBeat); news and culture (Robbyn’s Nest); photography and images shared by our readers (Through the Viewfinder); and even my ponderings and notes from the life of our newspaper and community (Footnotes).

Sure, they’re fun for us as writers, but the blogs are much more than an outlet for those random thoughts and tidbits that don’t quite fit into the print edition. They’re an extension of our conversations with you, our community. And that’s the exciting part.

So go ahead, check them out at www.troymessenger.com, and let us know what you think. We’re open to suggestions and ideas.

And who knows, we may even get George to log on and read …

Stacy Graning is publisher of The Messenger. Email her at stacy.graning@troymessenger.com and follow her on Twitter @stacygraning.