Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Newspapers, Letters & the Future

It seems somewhat appropriate to write this particularly with the identity of Deep Throat being revealed today. Last week, David McCullough, the historian and author or Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams was on washingtonpost.com for a chat. He was asked if he thought newspapers were going to disappear. This was his reply:

"I doubt very much that newspapers will disappear altogether. What's of far greater concern to me is the fact that very few people write letters any longer, or keep diaries and it's in the letters and diaries of people from other times that we can really find them and hear their voices. It's our way of getting beneath the surface. And alas, we are going to leave very few letters and diaries and so it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for future historians and biographers to know what we really felt and have had on our minds. The flavor and humanity of our times will be considerably harder to measure and appreciate without letters and diaries that survive into the future."

This struck me for several reasons. First, newspapers (particularly The Washington Post) had a huge impact with Watergate, but I doubt that a newspaper or group of newspapers could have that type of impact today.

Second, how will blogs, e-mails, etc. from today be viewed in 50 or 100 years? For me, I keep (much to the dismay of my wife) any card or letter that I receive. I also seem to keep most of my emails (I have about 1000 messages in my Yahoo in box). However, after a few years, I won't print them out; I'll just delete them. So if a historian is writing a book on me (unlikely), he/she probably won't see this blog (I guess I could print everything) and would only find birthday and holiday cards.

I have no idea where I'm going with this. I just thought it was interesting. Feel free to comment and discuss.

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