Craig Takeuchi: A brief look at how technology has impacted print media over the past two decades

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      Technology was supposed to save us time. And it definitely did.

      But that efficiency has also inadvertently sped up many other processes, one of them being the pace of work in numerous fields. That includes the field I have been working in for a few decades now.

      Within the media industry, the pace of news has accelerated to an incredible rate of speed.

      Here at the Georgia Straight, I’ve watched how, over the span of almost 20 years, technology has shifted our focus from one print edition per week to trying to figure out ways to meet the never-ending demand for content on a daily, hourly, by the minute—sometimes even by the second—basis.

      Proportionate with this rapid pace, the convenience of technology has also heightened expectations of how fast things can be turned around, delivered, or presented. Yet we’ve also simultaneously been held to older, print-level standards, which can be challenging, sometimes impossible, to meet based on time and resource limitations.  

      In the past, readers who wanted to voice their opinion would have to take the time out to reflect upon issues and think things through while composing a letter—now we hear from anyone and everyone at the click of a button. Although on the one hand that means we do hear more often from readers with positive comments, the sheer volume of negative comments and reactions has made it difficult to figure out who to listen to or what to take seriously. That’s all in addition to audiences expanding from a local to a global audience, which introduces many other issues such as figuring how to be inclusive of audiences from anywhere in the world while maintaining a primarily local base.

      Amid these intensifying working conditions, there have also been the severe financial challenges faced by print industries, which we’ve seen from the numerous waves of newspapers either being acquired by large corporations, downsizing or disappearing, both across North America as well as here in Vancouver.

      Consider, for example, all the Vancouver publications that we’ve lost along the way, such as Xtra West, the WestEnder, the Vancouver Courier, numerous suburban and B.C. community papers, the commuter dailies—Dose, Star Metro Vancouver, 24 Hours—and many others.

      One of the most shocking closures that occurred stateside was when New York City’s Village Voice—considered the grandparent of alternative newsweeklies—stopped publishing in 2017. It’s one reminder, among many other examples, that in this era of constant change and unpredictability, what may be assumed to be around forever can abruptly disappear. But, on the upside, one aspect of that constant change includes things being brought back to life—the Village Voice relaunched this year with new online content in January and a new print edition was published in April.

      Nonetheless, with the loss of all of these publications is not only a loss of knowledge, experience, and continuity, but a loss of space for established news coverage, voices, and perspectives.

      Part of the reason why I have helped to do whatever it takes to keep the Georgia Straight chugging along is because of the socio-political space it has inhabited within Vancouver, B.C., and even Canada, ever since its inception in 1967.

      When I created the online LGBT+ section at the Straight (no tired pun intended) in 2011, it was to help highlight specific content that was of interest to readers searching for that coverage. What has amazed me is how much LGBT+ rights and acceptance have progressed over recent decades, including same-sex marriage, SOGI in schools, human-rights protections, and a variety of resources, representations, and other things I never had growing up.

      What does concern me though is that although there have been incredible gains made, there remain numerous fronts where progress still remains impeded or slow. Although many think that simply because LGBT+ people have rights, everything is equal now—that’s not the case, and we only have to look at how long women’s movements, civil rights movements, and other social movements have been around to see that numerous issues, particularly systemic ones, are still to be tackled. On a personal level, the number of individuals who are still deeply closeted—despite where we are today with LGBT+ issues, despite having easy access to affirming and supportive images and words on the internet that previous generations lacked—who I have personally known remains troubling and has shown me how entrenched discrimination, even internally, can remain fiercely rooted resistant to change.

      In a time that demands rapid adaptation to change—be it constant technological advancements, extreme climate events, the pandemic, or social progress—as we continue to encounter more and more global crises and problems, one of the biggest challenges that I have come to believe that we face collectively is personal responsibility. In almost all of the articles I’ve written in which I’ve had to handle opposition viewpoints, the underlying issue has often been based upon disputes about who is responsible for what. From climate and environmental issues to political debates to violent incidents and crime to arguments about artistic representation, responsibility has been a consistently embedded theme.

      That has been particularly apparent during the pandemic, as we have been facing the prospect of collective responsibility to do our part in preventing the spread of COVID-19—but conflicts have arisen about personal freedom and those who have been disregarding or defying any efforts to help overall advancement.

      What I have learned from interviews and information, as well as from my own observations on a personal level, is how resistance or outright refusal to take responsibility can inhibit growth in self-damaging ways that frequently go unrecognized.

      This issue has been one of the most frequently recurring and difficult aspects to figure out how to address. The first step in change, particularly when it comes to personal issues, is taking responsibility, but it’s impossible to make someone change unless they want to, and especially if they don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing.

      But as we have to contend with how each of our individual actions are contributing to large-scale or global issues, including pollution, socio-economic inequities, climate change, and more, how well we fare in the future may depend on our ability to connect each of ourselves to the bigger picture, and to one another.

      When it comes to the latter, one of the most common obstacles I’ve seen over the years has been judgement based upon misunderstanding, be it based on misinterpretation or misperception, lack of information, or even an unwillingness to understand.

      Something I’ve found that can potentially help to overcome that is to consider applying some of the basic principles of journalism to everyday life: avoid making assumptions, gather all facts, listen to all sides of a story.

      With all that said, although I'm signing off today at the Georgia Straight and my byline will appear in other capacities and publications in the future, I wanted to thank readers for their support and encouragement over the years. I hope that everyone continues to read the Georgia Straight in the years to come and find ways to carry on the fight—not with each other, but for a better world.

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