The 361st Degree: A Newfangled News Angle (Part 1 of 2)

April 2, 2009

” What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

She goes on, but in brief summary, this was the original use of that (clearly misquoted) “rose by any other name” slogan.

Though poetic, my goal in the next several hundred word is to prove the idea fallacious and innacurate beyond all reckoning.

A name, to the skeptic who reads covers and not books (or magazines, or newspapers, or Google results, the latter of which applies to the vast majority of us searchers), is all that matters.  Beyond that, hearsay and hunches are the only tools he or she has to judge it with.  In that sense, the rose is never seen until someone hunts it down for its notoriety, and its name.  It keeps its secrets hidden deep within its jacket (as do drug dealers, albeit more literally).

News publications, in the beginning, were general.  Every Times, Post, Journal, Tribune and Review could stick the name of a state at its beginning (or the road that is home to the New York Stock Exchange, in the third case), and stand with that alone.   The publication was guaranteed to be read, if it was sitting on the stand with that week’s headline.

Then the printing presses diversified.  With the general news covered, and a decent economy able to get cheap paper and stamp (or type) words upon it, every quizzical corner and interest group in society had a magazine to accompany it.  “Arts & Architecture,” “Good Housekeeping,” “Commando.”   The diversification meant something for the millions who consumed them: countless splits in American society in the aftermath of a unifying war.

More importantly: it meant that with the increasing number of publications, a paper had to either get big fast or find a niche.

Then that darn thing the Internet happened.  Not only has it spend the last fifteen years digging its cruel rugged blade of free-publication into the once-great industry of paper-Journalism as we know it, it multiplied the number of published authors by approximately a Google.

Now each and every rose is buried in a flower bed so thick that the only way to find one is through the sea of millions.  Their smell, touch and perhaps even taste are each intangible, unless someone should wade through the knee-high fields, paths already leading to the best known by the thousands who trod there, and should see just one and pick it out.

That, dear readers, is why a rose by any other name wound not retain that dear perfection that it owes.  That rose must be the most unique in the garden, whether it would smell as sweet, or as tangy or chalky or minty or quaint.  Without that title, it is only another rose.

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One Response to “The 361st Degree: A Newfangled News Angle (Part 1 of 2)”

  1. Jena said

    interesting idea you’re playing with here – the idea that there is now so much out there and that, in a very real way, journalism is becoming “placeless.”

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