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The Digital Newspaper of 1981, and The Last 8 Years

There is a wonderful 1981 television report from KRON in San Francisco on the beginning of computerized newspapers that photographer Giovanni Del Brenna told me about (it’s also on the blog A Photo Editor). Before images or sounds were transmitted onto computers, eight newspapers were experimenting with the idea of having people read the newspaper text on their green screens. They admitted to doing this as an experiment, not to make any money (a remarkably self-fulfilling prophecy). At that time, using a telephone modem, it would have taken someone two hours to download a newspaper, costing $5 per hour for the download (contrasted with the 20 cents it would have cost to buy one on the street). Twenty-eight years later, as newspapers are going out of business left and right, many of their owners must be kicking themselves that they or their predecessors were not paying more attention in 1981. Or in the years in-between.

There is also an extraordinary column by Errol Morris cataloguing what three influential photo editors feel were the important photographs from the eight years of the Bush Administration. The photographs are both iconic and saccharine; it is difficult to believe that this is the best that we as a society could come up with. The imagery seems to constitute a cartoon version of what we have lived through, surface with little substance. As a European correspondent characterized it, the photographs in most cases would be “exactly what you’d have wanted as the White House photo-op organizer.” As previous entries here have argued, this is yet another tactic that needs to be changed in the coming years of the Obama presidency if the media, and the government, are to have any credibility.

One Comment

  1. Giovanni DB wrote:

    It’s funny to have read the column of Errol Morris and after see this video on how the photos at the white house are done now:
    (I found the link as usual on

    Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

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