Saturday, May 9, 2009

Newspapers and Technology as a Guest Speaker


This past Thursday (7 May) I was a guest speaker at the Computers for Seniors of Cape Cod meeting at the Dennis Senior Center. The invitation to speak came several months back, about the same time as the invitation to be a guest on NPR's The Point - and I accepted both.

While I had a clear notion of what would happen on the radio, my expectations about speaking to the CFS was not so clear... In fact I had no idea what to expect! In an exchange of email with the coordinator from CFS we briefly touched upon some likely topics, including computer memory problems, the newspaper industry, and other 'net related subjects, eventually firming up a plan for me to speak about both the newspaper industry and speeding up and maintaining your computer.

That was the plan, I tell you! In fact I created a well-structured bullet list of speaking points, with footnotes, and even came up with a few clever jokes to use in my opening. It was a plan, maybe even a good plan... But you know what they say about plans.

7 May 2009 - Guest Speaker

My wife drove me out to Dennis - a trip that often takes over an hour due to the vagaries of traffic and road construction - and we made such good time that we were able to stop off at the Cape and Islands Boy Scout Council Store on the way. That was nice because despite the fact that I have been involved in Scouting as a leader I had never actually been there.

When we arrived at the CFS meeting the first thing that I noticed was that there were a lot of people - it was a pretty good crowd in fact - and something of a relief, as I had imagined speaking to a room with five people in it!

I set up my computer and turned it on, and leaned towards the microphone to begin, glancing at my speaking points and noting that my first point was to greet everyone and thank the CFS for inviting me to speak. That went off right-to-plan, and then the plan went off the rails.

Now do not misunderstand me - I am in no way suggesting that this was a bad thing - in fact I suspect that my chat to the CFS was all the better for the fact that the audience had a mind of its own with respect to what I would be talking about. You see after I finished speaking point one, a series of questions followed that covered all sorts of subjects, illustrating to me that (1) the members of the CFS are a very smart group with their collective thumb firmly on computing technology, and (2) they had some considered questions that they wanted to ask about the newspaper industry in general and the Cape Cod Times in particular.

My assessment of the event? There was not enough time available for me to answer all of the questions, and there were no questions that did not deserve an answer! We did not really have a chance to get too deep into tuning and maintaining your computer - which was largely the subject that I had prepared to address - but we did cover the newspaper industry, its present health, and its future, with more than a few meaningful observations from the audience on what was wrong and how it might be fixed.

It was a very pleasant experience for me - and I hope that they invite me back some time!



A note to the Boston Globe: One issue that appeared in the questions and observations from the audience was the fact that the Wall Street Journal is doing quite well, and I think that we all agreed that at least part of its success has to do with the fact that it altered its editorial approach and its content to better serve its customers. In the detective biz that is what is called a clue - so Boston Globe, you might want to take a tour of the WSJ!

No comments: