Do people still write? British study says not so much

You might be a dinosaur if ... you still write things down on paper. (Photo by Eric Pulsifer)

When was the last time you scratched a note out in longhand? I mean take a pen, pencil or pocketknife and wrote something on paper, your hand or a bathroom wall.

If some of the pundits are to be believed, handwriting is a lost art. Another casualty of the digital age. According to an article on the Daily Mail (yeah, British press), the average adult hasn’t handwritten anything in more than 40 days. Anything. And if you take away what used to be the day-to-day jottings of adults — I’m thinking of those notes to yourself, grocery lists, phone numbers on a matchbook cover — only a third of adults actually sat down to write something in the past six months.

Now there’s scuttlebutt that the schools may at some point stop teaching young people how to write. Well, it’d been a while since they stopped teaching youngsters how to think … (Eric, just shut up; you’re going to get in trouble again!)

As I recall it in grade school (and my folks would be glad to fill in any gaps in my memory), my handwriting was beyond horrible. I seemed to lack the coordination (or the interest) to form my letters well, and things did not improve much when we learned the Palmer method of handwriting in third grade. By sixth grade I largely abandoned the Palmer teachings and reverted back to printing, which by then was a lot more readable. To this day I employ a half-printed, half-cursive hand, readable in most instances and instinctive enough that I can take notes without looking at the paper and still be able to understand it later. My penmanship (another wonderfully descriptive word that no one hears any more) is far from elegant, but it’s functional.

As far as my legal signature, forget it. You can’t read it. I got that honestly; Dad’s signature looks a lot like mine, like a Volkswagen that had been hit by a train. But you’re not supposed to read it. Years ago I knew this guy from the Middle East; he spoke fluent English without an accent, was thoroughly westernized. But he signed his checks in Arabic, starting in the middle and working outward. You don’t see anyone trying to forge that, he told me.

But now, there’s little call to write anything down. Pens and pencils may soon go the way of clocks with hands and landline telephones — cool to have, but some training may be required.

Think about it. We haven’t had to write long things out if there was a computer (or before that, a typewriter) handy.

Now we have smartphones. Just tap your note on that, save it to something like Evernote. Don’t need any pen. Or paper. Or pockets, for that matter.

Don’t even need to do much scribbling when you’re dealing with a bank or signing a contract any more. An e-signature takes care of the latter (just type your name), and nearly all bank transactions are electronic these days. The only check I write each month is to my landlord, and that’s only because he’s a Luddite.

I find I’m more of an anomaly these days because I do some of my writing in longhand. Notes are taken on index cards. First drafts go on yellow lined paper. Journal entries go in a leather-bound book, written with a fountain pen.

But more and more, the tech bug creeps into my life and I’m going more to the digital tools. Can’t remember when I last wrote a real letter, and I used to write some great ones. But everything’s by email now. If it wasn’t for my rent check and a few publishers who prefer hard copy when I’m pitching a story, I wouldn’t use the postal service at all.

I can’t rightly say I keep a paperless office, though I’m moving more that direction. A blessing, considering how I am with clutter. But the stacks of index cards and 5×8 legal-pad sheets lying around my desk bear proof that I still use paper and pen.

Reckon if you still write, you just might be a dinosaur.

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Some other tidbits, from a study by Docmail, a British stationer. Read ’em and weep:

 

  • Four in ten Brits rely on predictive text and increasingly rely on it for their spelling, with one in four regularly using abbreviations or ‘text talk.’
  • LOL (laugh out loud), U (you) and FYI (for your information) are the most regularly used abbreviations.
  • Today, creating a shopping list, taking notes in a meeting or even wishing someone a happy birthday are more often done via electronic means.
  • One third said when they do write something down, they often struggle to read their own writing when coming back to it later on.
  • And nearly half (44 per cent) said that their scribing is neither nice nor easy to read.
  • One sixth of Brits don’t even think handwriting should still be taught in schools.
  • One in three Brits describe handwriting as ‘nice’ but not something they would want to do every day.

Do tell. When was the last time you wrote something out? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Learning about amnesia from Mariano Rivera

From Hubpages:

A short memory is essential for staying sane. That’s what also helps Mariano Rivera (although his leg injury has him out of action for the year) keep mowing ’em down in his 40s.

http://ericsomething.hubpages.com/hub/Tools-are-great-but-amnesia-is-better-Learning-from-Mariano-Rivera

“If you’ve got depression, your brain will continually yak yak yak at you, mixing part truth and full lie to remind you of what a complete ne’er-do-well you really are. Kind of like a nagging spouse, except you can’t divorce your brain.”

Check it out.

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Give up my news habit? Forget it!

Coffee's drained, news is read ... now I can begin.

I saw this article about a Google engineer that makes a practice of giving up something every year — not so much for reasons of faith, but just to see if he can do it. This year, he’s giving up news.

My first thought was, maybe the guy should try something easy. Like cigarettes or crack or caffeine or something else.

Google engineer Matt Cutts gets on a self-improvement thing every year, and in the past he’s taken up marathon running, gone vegan, grown a ‘stache for Movember cancer awareness, and resolved to do a kind act every day. For March he raised the bar by resolving to give up news.

The rationale, he says, is there’s nothing he could do to change the news when it happens, and he burns a lot of mental resources keeping up.

It’s been rough, he says. At first he felt “unmoored” without all this information he’s used to gathering, then he realized he’s getting more important things done without all the constant stimuli. Besides, if a news event is important, someone will tell him about it anyway.

“It’s also interesting to see which ‘news’ stories are reflected back to me second-hand,” he said. “Evidently Snooki is pregnant and Rush Limbaugh did something that has people up in arms. It’s made me think a lot more about my information diet. We need better tools to distill the river of news – or more often, bread-and-circus factoids–down to the trickle of things that really matter.”

Kind of funny when you think about it. This guy works for Google, which made a fortune out of gathering information (some of it extremely personal, critics sahy) and making it available online. There’s no bigger collector on this earth than Google.

I’ve seen studies about how much information a person soaks up in a day, and trust me. It’s a lot. One study broke this information down to gigabytes and figured that if your brain was a hard drive you’d be filling it up awfully fast.

I can write with some sense of authority here, as I am an information junkie from way back. Never was much for TV, but I often had my nose in a book. And even at an early age I read a lot of newspapers. My mom was mystified why my shirtsleeves were so filthy and couldn’t get clean, and at the time I was a loss to explain it. But the closest I could figure out, it was from reading newspapers. The ink on newsprint never fully dries, and if you’re plunking your elbows on a broadsheet you’re going to be wearing a lot of that ink.

Back then, any kind of information was fair game. Newspapers. Magazines. The copy of the World Almanac I picked up every year, from 1968 to around 2000 when I realized I could get it online. Current events. Batting averages. Song titles. My mind was a vast garbage dump then, and it remains so to this day. I’m too old to change now.

With all these electronic tools, I can really get my news on. My most-visited Web site by far is Google Reader, the repository of all my RSS news subscriptions. My most-used smartphone app is one that allows me to access my Reader feeds, and I went crazy trying to find one that didn’t a) suck the battery dry, b) max out all my system memory or c) overheat the phone. I finally settled on one called FeedMe, but if I find a better one tomorrow you can bet I’ll download that too.

I’m just wired that way. According to the Gallup/Clifton Strengths Finder 2.0 test, “input” was one of my top five strengths — my superpower, as it were. Here’s how Strengths Finder describes the high-input person:

“You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information — words, facts, books, quotations — or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls or sepia photographs …” In other words, my brain absorbs 47 times its weight in excess information.

I needed an assessment quiz to tell me this?

For a person like me, indulging in a news habit can be a dangerous thing. I am prone to depression, and one of the real danger signs I must pay attention to is the tendency to isolate. And when I’m spending a lot of time reading news and chasing information, it’s real easy to slide into that isolation mode. That’s part of why I don’t have an Internet connection at home; this forces me to go out to at least download some news. The smartphone allows me some limited news-grabbing and surfing at home, but it’s not quite the same thing.

My RSS list includes many news sites, both mainstream and alternative. It has a handful of tech sites and some that I use to monitor trends — a must for this writer. And I have other sites geared toward the writing trade.

Then there’s Twitter. I have several feeds for local news, industry news and trends. Of all my social media, Twitter is the one I use the most. Gotta keep on top of things.

When I left print journalism in 1997, one would think I can get away from the constant need for news. But it just wasn’t so. I may not have had professional reasons to keep so up to speed on everything, but I still felt the need to do so. Even after all these years I hate to be out of the loop on anything. I guess you can take the boy out of journalism, just can’t take journalism out of the boy. Or something.

OK. Just call it what it is. I’m a news junkie.

Technology has changed things around some. I don’t buy as many books as I used to — haven’t picked up an armload at my favorite used bookstore in I don’t know how long. I think I picked up one newspaper all year, and I used to read several a day. But my Nook is loaded down with at least a couple hundred books and the RSS feed is always active. If I feel like pursuing a story further for this column or a freelance piece I’ll star it in Google Reader, tag it, take a few notes, and save the link in my editorial calendar.

But most of the news I read is strictly recreational.

So you can just forget it. I’m not joining Mr. Cutts on his latest vow. Are you kidding? I’d miss too much, and some of what I miss might be important.

Or not.

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Pardon, your geezer is showing: A bucket list

Bucket lists are real popular these days; so popular you may have found one in your email box or social media platform.

Admittedly they’re fun, and they can be a real eye-opener. The usual response after filling out one of those is something like, “I’m amazed I’m still alive!”

This bucket list is different. The rules are the same as any other — check off those you’ve done — but the results will indicate your true age.

The more you check off, the closer to geezerhood you actually are.

Got that? Have fun.

Have you ever:

  • Changed the channel on your TV without using the remote?
  • Figured out the best position for your TV’s rabbit ears for all three channels?
  • Bought your music on vinyl albums?
  • Bought a single song on a 45 record?
  • Listened to a transistor radio?
  • Put leaded premium gas in your car? (Bonus: For less than 50 cents a gallon?)
  • Stared at a TV test pattern?
  • Licked a postage stamp?
  • Licked a postage stamp that cost less than a dime?
  • Found out how many pages you can stuff in an envelope for one stamp?
  • Written a check for “cash” at the bank or corner store?
  • Played baseball in a vacant lot?
  • Tried switch-hitting because Mickey Mantle did it?
  • Dammed up a creek?
  • Laid your tongue on a cold railroad track to prove your courage?
  • Dialed a phone? I mean really dialed. Punching buttons doesn’t count.
  • (For the ladies) Ever own a princess phone? (If any of y’all guys ever owned one, you automatically flunked. Go away. Quit bothering me.)
  • Used a slide rule to do your homework?
  • Used an electric typewriter for your homework?
  • Or a manual typewriter?
  • Cheated in math by counting on your fingers?
  • Used a hand-cranked pencil sharpener?
  • Brewed coffee in an electric percolator?

The more of these you can say “yes” to, the closer to geezerhood you are. Oh, I already said that? I’m repeating myself? Durn it all. I tend to do that more these days; can’t understand why.

Really, the points don’t matter. It’s kind of like pants on a tool booth collector, no one knows or cares. But it’s fun anyway.

Feel free to post your “score” in the comments section. As for me, I’ll take the Fifth.

— Eric

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Talk to me: Any bucket-list items you think totally belong here? Share those in the comments section (along with your scores).

 

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If your phone goes off and it’s nobody, you’re not alone

One of the things that took some getting used to was how active my Android phone gets. It makes noise and vibrates when I get a phone call, an email or a text message. Considering my own online/offline activity — not even counting all those alarms I set to keep my ADHD self on track, that’s a lot of vibrating.

So you can imagine my surprise when I felt my belt vibrate over my right hip, and when I checked it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t for anybody. It didn’t ring or vibrate at all. The phone sat inert in the belt pouch, and I only imagined the vibrations.

Welcome to the phenomenon called “phantom vibration,” which a study by the University of Worcester suggests is a sure sign you’re getting goofy about your phone.
It’s akin to those phantom pains amputees talk about, where a nonexistent foot itches or develops muscle spasms. Purely psychological stuff, and hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

Shoot, I feel enough like an idiot when someone else’s phone rings and I’m sure it’s mine. I’ve experienced enough of that to realize I get a little obsessed about that phone.
But when there’s no phone ringing anywhere near me, that’s when I know things are bad. What’s even worse is when I feel that vibration over my hip — while the phone is in my hand.

Turns out I’m not the only one who experiences this. I brought the subject up over dinner with a few good friends, all technophiles who would sooner leave the house without their pants than forget their phones. And all of these friends nodded knowingly when I mentioned phantom vibrations. The discussion became a heavy confession time for a few, and you’d swear a recovery group broke out right then and there. Lots of sympathizing but no solutions, but that’s normal. Like they say in recovery groups, we’re not trying to fix anything.

This study, as cited in the UK Telegraph, says workers who are issued a smart phone for on-the-job use, especially feel the stress that seems to trigger these phantom vibrations. They feel they’re not checking their messages often enough.
Psychlogist Richard Balding of the University of Worcester (why is it the British get to do all the cool research?) says it’s a stress thing — stress if you’re getting messages, and stress if you’re not.

According to the Telegraph:

” … this became a vicious cycle in which the more stressed people became, the more they compulsively felt the need to check their phone, the study showed … Balding, who led the research, said employers should seriously consider the burden that smart phones put on their workers … ‘Smart phone use is increasing at a rapid rate and we are likely to see an associated increase in stress from social networking,’ Balding said.”

(Note to employees everywhere: If your company issues you a smart phone, run like your hair’s on fire. Or negotiate a massive salary/wage increase. Your life is no longer your own.)

Others who use their smart phones as their link to social media may also feel the stress of always being “on,” or the anticipation of another message. Hey, if you get a text from Publishers Clearinghouse saying you’d won a few million bucks, you sure don’t want to miss it.

It’s crucial I stay in contact with the outside world. I do some social media stuff but it’s not a big part of my life. It’s not job-related, at least not related to my day job. But as I try to build something of a business on my own, contact is essential. It might not exactly be Ed McMahon calling from whatever realm he’s hanging out at these days, but potential customers and contacts have me keeping an eye on the phone. My own obsessive nature doesn’t help much either, but we won’t discuss that here.

Whoops. My phone is vibrating, and it’s nobody.

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Will smartphones trigger a pay phone comeback?

This relic may be coming back, thanks to your high-tech smartphone.

See related story: Android adjustments 2: Preserving battery life.

Cell phones killed the old pay-phone industry, and it appears they might be bringing the old communication icon back.

This may be good news for Clark Kent, who was reduced to finding an unoccupied men’s room to strip off his reporter’s duds and get into his Superman character. But the scuttlebutt is that pay phones may have a future again.

This backwards step comes as cell phones become more advanced and require more power to run them. Android units — which are king among the smartphone set — are particiularly power-hungry, and can suck your battery dry in just a few hours of heavy use.

Understand, this post is partly based on some stuff I’ve read on the net (always a dangerous thing) and partly from taking what I know and making some projections. There’s a lot of speculation here. Again, not the most sound journalistic practice, but I can still see this coming. As phones get smarter (though not necessarily the batteries), this becomes a logical conclusion.

Facebook synchronization and Web browsing will suck a battery dry fairly quickly, and the user is often reduced to some courses of action if he wishes to fire off a fast phone call:

  • Carry your AC adapter and pray you can find an unoccupied outlet somewhere.
  • Carry an extra, charged battery.
  • Make like Superman and find a pay phone.

So far, I haven’t seen any concrete evidence of a pay-phone resurgence, at least not in my neck of the woods. Although I understand pay phones are starting to come back in the larger cities, they’re as hard to find in the South Carolina Lowcountry as they’ve always been.

According to one of my spotters, Ted (the night mayor of Bonneau Beach, SC) his town has not a single pay phone. At all. Out there, cell reception is tricky, but it’s enough that you can at least get a signal.

So you may need to carry a few things when you travel with your Android phone:

  • AC adapter
  • Extra battery
  • Change for the pay phone. Most still take quarters.

Or maybe (shameless plug) just read my piece on preserving Android battery life, in my Random Hacks blog. You might learn something.

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Talk to me: Have you ever thought you’d ever use a pay phone again? Don’t you wish one was around when your smart phone battery ran out?

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Study: Majority of computer jockeys curse their machines

I have a real love-hate thing with computers. I use them every day and can make them do pretty much what I want. I do, however, get this occasional urge to take a chain saw to one.

As tech-savvy as I claim to be, I still get frustrated by computers. Despite my abilities with them, I still resent any inanimate object that claims it is smarter than I am. I get particularly irate when that inanimate object proves it, but then I have this thing about being the smartest guy in the room anyway.

Funny thing, that’s about what folks say I sound like at the computer. Something about worthless buckets of bolts, with threats of dumping salt water and/or a fistful of paper clips in its innards, and unintelligible grunts accompanied with the kind of faces my mother warned that might become my permanent expression if I persisted in making them.

So when I saw a news story that suggests more than half of the computer jockeys yell at their equipment on the job, I had to laugh. And perhaps feel this sense of being singled out. If the hat fits, wear it. If the computer acts up, throw it.

But check it out. According to TrackVia, three out of every five people who work with computers (not including your Information Tech pros, as it’s debatable whether they’re really human) get upset enough to yell at their work machines, and almost 18 percent say the equipment is so bad they considered quitting their jobs.

That last is serious stuff, considering how weak the economy is. One would have to have compelling reason to quit a job these days.

Although I’ve been largely successful at eliminating profanity from my vocabulary (other anger manifestations, not so much) all my good intentions go out the door when the computer takes a minute longer to complete a process than I think it should. That’s when drunken longshoremen start asking me to clean up my language.

I’m told I talk to my computer a lot when using it, or maybe just talking to myself. Or so I’m told. I am not aware of this otherwise. My old coworkers at the Mohave County (AZ) Standard, Pam Wanner and Cullen West, swore that when real busy and in deep concentration, I’d growl at the terminal. That’s when everyone would back away from my desk, not always a bad thing in itself. I caught a lot of jokes about rabies shots back in those days.

I’d written about the handheld computers at work, and how frustrating they can be. When they bog down, the best thing is to wait on them, but this does not preclude me a) offering to dropkick the computer or b) telling a trucker it’s perfectly OK if he squashed that sucker flat as long as it looks like an accident.

In the past I’d dealt with old unpredictable Harris system typesetting terminals, the bomb icon on early (mid-1980s) Mac systems, and buggy Windows installations that ate my work files. Even my Linux system is not immune to my ire, but that’s what I get for using software that’s still in beta-testing mode.

I used to laugh at those who took their frustrations out on some electronic object. I’ll always remember the time, 20 years ago, when I worked in a casino and watched this old guy muttering at his video poker machine. Going on a mile a minute the whole time he sat there. I almost burst out laughing when he said something about a snowball in hell during his monologue. But that’s a whole different thing altogether. Video poker machines are out to get you anyway.

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Talk to me: Do you scream at your computer on the job? What do you say, or am I better off not knowing? Are your rabies shots up to date? Use the comments section below.


 

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Working with faulty equipment: Wait it out

My work handheld and printer are mated for optimum Bluetooth performance. Didn't you know, 10 always goes with 2?

It’s tough to get a job done when you’re using substandard equipment, but you already knew that. In the real live workaday world, faulty tools are just a fact of life. Hold your mud and work with it, right?

I’ve written before about the handheld computers I use on my day job, and though they do the job most of the time, they still have their glitches. Like the printer stalls out at the most inopportune moments.

The truckers I deal with, well, they need those printouts. It’s the only real proof they have that they actually did anything worthwhile. It’s proof they hauled the load. Shoot, it’s their money. They basically cash those printouts in for folding money, to oversimplify things. Plus most of these truckers are paid by the piece instead of the hour, so it’s imperative they have that little strip of thermal paper in hand without delay.

Each handheld (a Psion Teklogix, for those who care) is mated to a printer via a wireless Bluetooth setup, and the handhelds themselves are likewise linked to the office mainframe via another wireles signal. All very effective, most of the time.

The system started going to pot about six months ago, right about when the corporate guys sent out a crew of IT guys to upgrade the computers. I know that’s the root of the trouble. An upgraded system (particularly a Microsoft-based one; these handhelds use Windows Embedded) usually means more features, more bloat, less efficiency.

Now, these truckers (again, paid by the load, not the hour) take a real dim view of this. Of course, myself being on the front line at the day job, I have to have all the answers:

  • We’re waiting for the satellite to come back into position.
  • There’s bird dung on the antenna.
  • The steel plate in my head interferes with the signal. Or the one in the driver’s head. Hey, those are my answers.
  • The trucker’s cell phone is screwing up the signal. This is my favorite answer, as most drivers would sooner give up their eldest son than their cell phones. Plus, many of these drivers are pretty unsafe when they’ve got that phone permanently attached to their heads.
  • Sunspot activity.
  • It’s not bogging down; everything’s fine.
  • It’s all in your mind.
  • It’s only messing with you; it never happens to anyone else.
  • Or something.

You can cuss those handhelds, you can threaten them all sorts of physical violence, you can dance naked in a vat of steaming chicken guts, but none of these things will help. Just wait it out. Work your way down the line of trucks, process them, and eventually you’ll get a long strip of paper with several trucker’s transfers on it, but wait it out.

Except I don’t do waiting.

Patience is not in my DNA. I’d rather take the handheld and printer apart, hack the system, and try again. This waiting just doesn’t do it for me.

Even the perpetually unflappable Alan has trouble.

Surprisingly, Alan has more trouble with those handhelds than anyone in the shop. They’ll bog down on him for 10 minutes at a time rather than the usual minute or two. Then I figured it out. He’s opening that printer up and pressing random buttons when it stalls, thereby causing the whole thing to conk out. But what’s so surprising is that Alan is probably the most patient person at work. Nothing gets him down, nothing bothers him. He flat-out doesn’t give a rip, and he’s quick to say that.

But when the computers act up, Alan turns into me.

Just wait it out. It’ll work eventually.

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Video game gets blame for football loss

No wonder the players couldn't see the ball anymore.

It’s the video game, I tell you!

The Lousiville Cardinals lost their game to Pittsburgh last weekend, and the coach has an idea why: Half the squad was bleary-eyed and strung out after a marathon session of the brand-new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game.

From TG Daily:

“(Louisville Cardinals coach) Charlie Strong said the team could have had a shot at making their way to a bowl game at the end of the season, but instead they wanted to play the game that millions of others are losing sleep to … Louisville is now 5-5 after losing to Pittsburgh by 7 points. The team had managed a three-game winning streak up to that point … Strong told his players, “In about a week or so, you’re going to be throwing that video game away, but we let a video game take control of us.”

I’m not terribly familiar with the Call of Duty franchise, but I understand there are some similarities to the Risk board game and Sid Meier’s Civilization. Yeah, I’ve had lengthy overnight Risk challenges with friends, and I’ve spent many hours at the terminal playing Civilization.

So I can see it happening.

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Citizen journalism to rule in ’12: A good thing?

The 2012 election may be the first one to be covered primarily by citizen-journalists, though whether that is a good thing is a tough call.

This development is expected, really. By the last presidential election, the mainstream media had deprecated to the point where any real journalism coming out was purely accidental, and the 2008 winner, Barack Obama, escaped the scrutiny that candidates usually get. Thanks in part to the dying press and the babbling electronic media, Americans elected someone with no discernible background. Might as well have chosen The Unknown Candidate, complete with the paper sack over his head.

This news dynamic changed even more — devolved, perhaps — since then, with velocity being the order of the day. Well, that’s always been an issue in news gathering as the media outlet that breaks the story gets the bragging rights. But in 21st Century America that lead time is cut to seconds instead of hours. We now have news as it happens, or more frequently news as it doesn’t happen. Could this be the dynamic that shapes coverage in the 2012 election?

It’s not 2012 yet. It’s not the primary season yet, not even the pre-primaries. But in the pre-pre-primaries we’ve already had enough drama to stock a whole campaign. Try a dozen debates already between Republican candidates, and at least a dozen more to come. It seems every special interest group has a debate or forum of its own, and already some very promising candidates rode the roller coaster:

  • Mitt Romney starts with frontrunner status. Herman Cain shows strength in some debates, becomes the one who can beat Obama. Rick Perry sneaks in from the south entrance with strong conservative ties. Sarah Palin bows out early, before she even gets in.
  • Cain and Perry propose specific tax plans.
  • Perry shows poorly in a debate.
  • Cain is the new frontrunner.
  • Cain is accused of sexual harassment, which could be anything from grabbing a touchie/feelie to holding a door open for a female coworker. Cain accuses the Perry camp for this, and takes a tumble in the polls.
  • Perry has the mother of all brain farts in another debate, something like 40 seconds of dead air time. By rights it should kill his campaign except that the others are trying to kill their own faster, more thoroughly.
  • Now Newt Gingrich, who hadn’t been relevant all century, is looking like he could be a front runner, if you can believe that.

Got all that?

Mind you, it’s not even 2012 yet. It’s still the pre-pre-primary.

Between the usual online news suspects and the bloggers, tweeters, user-generated news outlets, and social media dispatches, there shouldn’t be any great mystery about any of the candidates. Not this time.

By the time voters start casting ballots for real in the primaries, we should know everything about everyone running. We’ll know who was born here, we’ll know how each one did in school, and we might even know where each candidate is coming from politically. All will be throughly vetted. The trick, then, is for the thinking voter to separate the news from the nonsense, not likely to be an easy task when citizen-journalists rule public discourse.

Anytime the media is user-driven — or to put it more inelegantly, run by the rabble — there’s always a danger of being overcome by a flood of nonsensical information. It will reflect our society, which is more interested in Dancing With The Stars than real-live flesh-and-blood issues.

It’ll be interesting to see if anyone still cares, or is even awake for the presidential campaign during the primaries and general election, when it counts.

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