However, since then I've been thinking about what an out-of-date concept the whole "letter to the editor" is, so it comes as little surprise that Vice magazine skipped the Letters to the Editor this month, instead posting a whining rant online about how they don't get real letters any more:
You know what? No letters page this month. You know why? Because we aren't receiving enough real letters. We mainly get emails now, and people don't think when they write emails. They just pump them out, which makes them hard to reply to. We sat here and looked at like 50 emails we've gotten in the last couple days and it was really depressing. It's like trying to come back to a burp or a fart. What can you say? "Nice fart"? "Subpar belch, but try again"?I guess if that were the situation, I could see going out and soliciting better Letters to the Editor as well, but the fact is the whole Letters to the Editor concept seems pretty antiquated at this point. It was based on the premise that the magazine publishers and editors were the gatekeepers of the content, and if you didn't like it, you could potentially get your say in -- but only if they chose your comment out of a pile of others, and then it would likely be edited down anyway. It wasn't a conversation. It wasn't participation. It was letting the riff raff have their carefully moderated say as filler.
And we used to get great letters. They would arrive in decorated envelopes along with goofy little tokens, tchotchkes, gizmos, and gifts inside -- even cheap stuff like newspaper clippings or a photo or a drawing was nice. Now we just get retarded fucking emails...
Of course, this sort of thinking can still be found in certain media industry folks who still pine for those "good old days" when people didn't really talk back. Witness a recent column in Toronto's Globe and Mail where the author trots out the tired complaints about bloggers that went out of style in 2004. It's the usual stuff about how most blogging is crappy, and how dare the riff raff think that they have a voice:
And now there is blogging, and comments. Readers may take 30 seconds to post a comment on a story or blog item that a writer dashed off in a minute. On The Globe website, our slogan is "Join the Conversation," but in the blogosphere, what follows isn't usually a conversation but a brief, ungrammatical shouting match. You can have more pensive chats in a bar fight.There's also some nonsense about how people only have a finite number of things to say, and therefore you should save it for important publications like a magazine or a newspaper. In other words, please shut up and let us go back to telling you what's important. And then these old school media types wonder why we don't want to participate under their rules?
And journalism wasn't meant to be a conversation, anyway. It was maybe a monologue, at its most democratic a carefully constructed dialogue. If readers didn't like or agree with the monologues in paper A, they bought paper B. What was most important about their opinions was that they thought enough to spend the coin.
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