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Apodaca: The writing isn't on the wall

November 29, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

My older son and I have a Christmas tradition that I love. We give each other books.

He puts a lot of thought into his choices, usually opting for nonfiction because of our shared love of history. Thanks to him, I've read biographies of presidents and other world leaders, and learned more about the American Revolution, World War II, and the Cold War. He's also occasionally indulged my weakness for classic whodunnits.

My younger son, a college freshman, writes for a blog run by a campus club. In a recent posting, he presented a persuasive argument that the public discussion instigated by the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal will ultimately have a positive effect on sports.

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So when a media maven's highly publicized comments sparked a new round of hand-wringing over whether the written word is dead, I had to sigh and shake my head. Here we go again.

This is how the latest tempest got started: Tina Brown, whose resume includes stints as top editor at Newsweek, the New Yorker, and Vanity Fair magazines, recently attended a conference in India. While there, she announced that she had stopped reading magazines.

She went further, saying "I think you can have more satisfaction from live conversations," and that we are "going back to oral culture where the written word is less relevant."

Her comments were reported in a local newspaper, and before long other newspapers, magazines, blogs and Twitter feeds around the world — all outlets devoted to written words, by the way — picked up and picked apart the story.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that Brown chose to make her provocative views public at the very moment when she's leaving her job at the Daily Beast for a new career putting on conferences. In other words, she's giving up the written-word business for an industry devoted to spoken words. How providential for her that written words are no longer relevant now that she's no longer providing them.

Now I'm sure Brown must be a highly intelligent woman since she's held some pretty impressive jobs, has a posh English accent, and is probably being paid a load of money. But she's completely, utterly wrong.

The written word isn't dead or dying. It's not even sick.

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