Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s Roadshow

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Earlier tonight, a few friends accompanied me to Cal’s Sibley Auditorium to listen to Dave Eggers speak about the (not sure if controversial is the right word) publication of Panorama. The contributions made by he, several editors, and staffers of the 300+ page one-time edition newspaper were sheer brilliance. I could not help but think: Wow, we are in the presence of great forward-thinking individuals.

To give you some background: In the 1990s, Dave Eggers started his career in the SF Bay Area as a journalist with skills in graphic design. He eventually began to write, edit, and publish work for several news organizations and magazines. Having penned a successful memoir, several novels, compilations of interviews and essays, as well as major motion picture screenplays (last year’s Where the Wild Things Are and Away We Go), he founded an independent publishing house, McSweeney’s, and played a major role in establishing a non-profit writing and tutoring center for school-aged children in SF’s Mission district called 826 Valencia (aka “the Pirate Shop”).

Eggers’ activism in local communities is not only a driving force for children’s renewed interest in the literary arts, it’s safe to say that he’s spearheaded the wave of questions we’ve directed towards the news industry and encouraged us to hold journalists accountable in how they provide information to the public.

Some of the points Eggers and his peers touched on last night were:
-The misinformation to the public that print news agencies are “dying”
-Why it makes logical business sense to charge readers for online content (and how it hurts papers that don’t)
-The connection between newspapers and the level of corruption in government (i.e. Journalists help hold governments accountable for decisions and actions that affect the public.)
-The graphics, size, and colors displayed in print newspapers (i.e. the importance of aesthetic factors in attracting, as well as retaining readership)
-Allowing writers or reporters to write in long form (the notion that an article should be as long as it needs to be so that the message or information is complete)
-Critical fact-checking processes and the disposal of these departments in newspapers (due to cuts in operating costs). We need to see this as a loss of credibility in the paper.
-Reinvesting in investigative journalism. (ie. No news organization even thought to ask how much the new Bay Bridge was going to cost – twice as much as expected! Where parts were coming from – China! The safety of the bridge! Etc.)
-The physiological experience derived from reading print newspapers (stimulating, relaxing, engaging!), as opposed to reading the news from multiple online sources (distracting, jumpy, stressful!)
-The lifespan of readership (pouring over the comics as a child, moving onto different sections throughout your lifetime, the habitual reading of certain editorials and columns…this is the relationship you establish with a paper)

As someone who is fascinated by the amount of changes this particular industry is facing, I was blown away by the presentation. More than 12 hours later, I’m still thinking about certain points made and unabashedly inspired by the questions that still need to be answered. If you have not purchased your own copy of the Panorama, I highly suggest you make a trip out to 826 Valencia. Why purchase the paper there? What normally costs $16 is only going to cost you $5 (money you would’ve dropped on a latte that’s going to give you a stomachache). Let’s try to keep this form of news above water and do our part to make the industry cognizant of our loyalty.

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Written by winniewongsf

February 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

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