Thursday, July 2, 2009

P.J. O'Rourke on Magazines and Media

During a June 11, 2009, appearance at The Commonwealth Club of California in Silicon Valley, author, satirist, and former National Lampoon editor P.J. O'Rourke was asked about his views of the publishing industry.

Asked about the severe troubles of print and other traditional media and the rise of bloggers and other new-media thingies, he cracked, "If I wanted to hear what some cranky old guy in his underwear had to say, I'd ask myself."

But he noted that things are unlikely to go back to what they were, such as when he was toiling away at National Lampoon in New York City in the 1970s. "We are obviously in some sort of transition period. I assume we'll come out on the other side of it pretty nicely, in some way. Something will emerge. But I haven't got the slightest idea what it's going to be. And the transition's going to be ugly; all change is painful, and this is particularly painful. Let's hope that the pain we're feeling here is the pain of childbirth and not the pain of being run over by a bus. At the moment, it's very hard to tell. I'm certainly glad I'm not starting out in this business.

"The long trend that worries me is [that] the easier it gets to communicate -- it's just totally counter-intuitive -- but the easier it is to communicate, the stupider the things that get communicated. When you had to carve something into rock with a chisel and a hammer -- [you got the] 10 commandments! Pretty good. Brief, to the point. [Then] you got parchment and a quill pen and you had to chase the goose down, and make the ink yourself, stretch the sheep and get the parchment -- [you got] Shakespeare! Come along, you get the fountain pen, you get Henry James. You get the typewriter -- you get Kerouac. You get the computer -- you get Matt Drudge. So I think maybe we should go back to the chisel and the hammer and a big piece of stone."
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