The historic election of Barack Obama to the post of United States President brings to mind the notion that one would like, no matter which candidate one supported, to collect as much memorabilia as possible for posterity’s sake. In fact, it seems that this is what most Americans did. According to Reuters blog, the New York Times printed an extra 50,000 copies of its November 5th issue, and for the first time in a long time, the New York Daily News printed an “afternoon edition” and longer lines than normal were reported at news kiosks in Chicago where people were buying five or more copies of the Tribune and Sun-Times.
I admit that I too wanted to have a piece of history for myself and purchased a NYTimes on my way into work. It just seemed to make sense, that decades from now, it would be nice to have a keepsake, a single relic that indicated the spirit of how people felt the morning after the first African American was elected to this country’s highest office. It got me thinking about a question I pondered earlier, regarding Google’s tool allowing folks to see how some of their favorite sites looked in 2000 as part of their 10 year celebration. How do we record history when our traditional form of memory-keeping is no longer sitting on shelves, behind glass cases or in a scrapbook? There is much discussion about the supposed “demise” of print media. I understand the argument that people read newspapers on their computers and mobile devices, which causes a decrease in demand for the physical printed material. But, that is primarily for the information we seek and then promptly dispose of. What of those editions that capture history or a unified human moment? I find it hard to believe that we’ll someday be capturing our favorite screenshots of web pages to record important, record-breaking, history-making events. That seems cold and not nearly as warm as a tangible, physical archive.
I could be wrong, but I’m nonetheless reluctant to declare the death of print media.