Monday, April 2, 2012

Today's 1940 Census Newspaper Story

On Saturday, there was a call on my voice mail from a reporter at the local newspaper, the Albany Times-Union.  The Times-Union is one of the largest circulating papers in eastern upstate NY, so, naturally, I was curious what he wanted to speak to me about.

I returned his call mid-afternoon; he said he was calling me because he was doing a story on the 1940 census.  We chatted for a bit about the census and why people might be interested in the forthcoming release.  I told him about crowd-sourcing the index and a bunch of other stuff, not all of which made it into print.

I asked him when the story was going to appear.  "Monday morning", he said.

So, this morning, I checked the online edition of the T-U and got to read the story.  Most of my quotes were reasonably intact.  Here's the link to the story online

Later in the morning, I got the print edition and was pleased to see that the story appeared on the first page above the fold - a position of prominence usually reserved to earth-shattering events like political indictments, murders, bank heists and the like.

Anyway, here's an off-the-cuff observation:  people who only see the print edition will not ever see (or even know about) the series of 12 photographs that appear in the online edition.  On the other hand, the folks who read the story online will never, ever know that the story itself ran on page one above the fold in the print edition.  

Each of those isolated facts adds something of interest to our understanding of the story's content.

In a sense, this is kinda what Marshall McLuhan was talking about back in the 60s when he wrote that "the medium is the message."  Information tends not to stand on its own;  it stands in a context that is provided both by the media and by the surrounding and enhancing content.

That's why it's important to always consider and understand the source of our information.  Editions matter.  Media matter.  Content may vary from place to place.

More than one source?  Check 'em all out!

1 comment:

  1. Boy! You hit the nail on the head when you said that "Information tends not to stand on it's own".
    Especially with today's news media.