Only Good Writing Can Save Print Media

Question: Can print and digital media coexist in the future?

David Gelernter: In two ways. The service that print media traditionally makes available is editing, which can turn almost unintelligible random words into intelligible language, depending on how good a writer you are dealing with. The vast majority of mankind today writes badly and finds it difficult to – may have good ideas, but finds it difficult to write more than an articulate sentence. I’m really judging by my students. Each year, my students at Yale, which is a good university, we get very good students, are less and less able to express themselves in writing. So, the print media more than ever provides editing and provides authority, respectability. If I go to a newsstand 30 years ago, and there are five newspapers, it’s important for me to know that I trust this newspaper and I don’t trust that one. But if today I go to the Web and there are 30,000 sites, it’s even more important for me to go to a site which I have some reason to trust consistently over the long term. I think the print media have failed to make the most of their opportunity. They may all disappear because they are approaching things in the wrong way. But editing to produce coherent, readable text and authority so that readers know how to spend - no matter how much information there is, I have the same number of minutes in my day, and I need to look to sources that I trust, beginning with the print media, newspapers I read, magazines I read, publishers I trust to give me advice on how to spend those minutes. Print media will flourish if it does that. I don’t know if it will.

Every year, David Gelernter’s students at Yale "are less and less able to express themselves in writing." Unless that trend changes, old media may wither.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Radical theory says our Universe sits on an inflating bubble in an extra dimension

Cosmologists propose a groundbreaking model of the universe using string theory.

Getty Images/Suvendu Giri
Surprising Science
  • A new paper uses string theory to propose a new model of the Universe.
  • The researchers think our Universe may be riding a bubble expanded by dark energy.
  • All matter in the Universe may exist in strings that reach into another dimension.
Keep reading Show less

Your body’s full of stuff you no longer need. Here's a list.

Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.

Image source: Ernst Haeckel
Surprising Science
  • An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
  • Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
  • Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Top Video Splash
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and things that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way.".