Well it took me awhile – and this still isn’t the reporting or research I would rather be doing on this page. But here goes my first shot.
A friend of mine recently spent an evening poring over her old Xanga page, regardless of the political science exam we both were cramming for, created sometime around junior high.
Her absolute joy at finding the old memories got me thinking about how my generation will remember our past experiences. How long will our Facebook albums be archived? Will we look back at Google chats to remember the jokes we laughed at in college?
When the Internet first made its appearance in my house, I didn’t know exactly what to make of it. All of my friends already had AIM profiles – decked out with neon colors, quotes from Disney movies and pop songs and the infamous “%n really smells” welcome. (That automatically entered your screen name into the field.)
We decorated Angelfire pages with emoticons of fairies and unicorns, dancing dolls and other ridiculous sparkles and stickers. Those profiles and pages became the online equivalent of a pencilcase or folder at school — who could make their page the prettiest and send everyone else scrambling to find that specific shade of pink or the fairy with moving wings?
I’m not of the opinion that all these online networks will lead to the elimination of all human contact. But I do fear the day I receive a Facebook invite to a wedding or a graduation announcement via e-mail. I’m sure that day is coming sooner than I’d like. That possibility goes against the traditionalist in me; the one that hopes we still cherish those slips of paper as memoirs of important events.
I got over the thrill that comes with seeing your name in print about 20 articles into my freshman year as a reporter at The Daily Illini. My mom stopped asking me to send copies home around that time too, but the insignificance of that line of type wasn’t directly connected with her exasperation of storing dozens of college newspapers in a closet at our house.
I went out to dinner with a few friends from high school during a weekend home that year. We sat at a long table with conversations scattered up and down the rows. I distantly overheard a friend who attended U of I talking about a story he had read in the paper. Briefly, a Champaign County board seat had been decided by a coin flip after a dead-even tie resulted from the election.
“After the March 21 primary, voting machines tabulated that each candidate had earned the same number of votes. Wysocki was later named the winner on a coin toss, Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden said.
‘Should there be a tie, a random selection method must be chosen, and the coin toss is what the candidates mutually elected to do,’ he said.”
While my friend told the story as an example of how backward he believed Champaign politics were, I smiled and went back to my conversation. I realized than that I didn’t care if he ever knew that I had written that story. He read it, and he cared enough to pass it on to people who had never even been to Champaign or heard of Barb Wysocki. I’ve never let myself forget that it’s not about the name on the page, or the Web site, but the content.
Now, focusing more intensely on Web reporting, I have expanded that mentality to include all types of media.
It doesn’t matter who tells the story or how it’s told — the story is what will always count for readers.
Unless they happen to be related to the writer.