Saturday, February 6, 2010

Old new journalist encounters new new journalism; is bewildered.




I did a class presentation on Tom Wolfe last week and I stumbled upon this interview with Tom Wolfe. I still can't get over it. In case you're too lazy to click the link, here's how it goes:

"New York: Hi. I'm Tim from New York magazine.
Tom Wolfe: Hello, Tim. You don't do podcasts, do you?

[Brief pause for understandable disorientation.]

New York: No, but I do video stories. Why do you ask?
Tom Wolfe: Because I still don't know what they are. And I've never known anyone that ever watched one.

New York: You don't know what podcasts are?
Tom Wolfe: I have a vague idea. As far as I can tell, nobody ever watches them.
New York: They're just audio though.
Tom Wolfe: They check out, but they don't check in.
New York: [Mental double take.] Are you pulling my leg? You really don't know what a podcast is?
Tom Wolfe: To be honest, I don't know what it is. I know that you sit in front of a microphone and have a conversation, and some way or another, it comes out on a screen or…

[Pause for a brief explanation of the nature of podcasts and how, for example, one could download an interview with him and listen to it on an iPod or in while driving.]

Tom Wolfe: Oh, see, that part I didn't know.
New York: Do you think now that you know you'll try it out?
Tom Wolfe: No. I never wear earphones in the car."

That's right: The man went from a career built on uncovering trends and subcultures before they even existed and totally reinventing journalism in the process to being totally bewildered by new media.

How does that happen? Is it inevitable that at some point, you get stuck in your ways and miss huge cultural and technological changes? When it happens to me, will I know, and will there be anything I can do about it?

Dear New York Magazine: Please don't sue me for copying and pasting that interview.

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