Simon Kelner: Proof that the printed word is alive and kicking

Kelner's View

Related Topics

Many of you will be reading these words in the traditional manner, by turning over the page of a newspaper, scanning the headline, and then reading the columnist's first paragraph before deciding that life is too short after all.

But bear with me, because I have news for you: while print is considered an outdated medium, not capable of matching the speed, accessibility and versatility of digital channels, it still occupies a central place in our culture.

That much was clear from the closing ceremony of the Olympics. The stage set had a newspaper motif, with famous references from English literature – for example, "To be or not to be" or "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" – being given a tabloid headline makeover. The cars were covered with newsprint, and the song performed by Emeli Sandé, "Read All About It", put newspapers at the centre of this celebration of all that's great about Britain. "You've got the words to change a nation/ But you're biting your tongue," sang Miss Sandé, as direct a challenge to some of the nations competing in the Olympics as George Michael's rendition of "Freedom". "I wanna sing, I wanna shout/ I wanna scream till the words dry out/ So put it in all of the papers/ I'm not afraid/ They can read all about it."

This was powerful advocacy of the potency of the printed word to change the status quo, or to free people from repression, and was in direct contrast to the opening ceremony, which was all about Wi-Fi, Facebook and the speed and reach of modern communication.

A friend explained to me the other day the qualitative difference between reading a book, a newspaper or a magazine, and reading the same content on screen. One is a "lean back" experience, associated with pleasure, relaxation and enjoyment, and the other is a "lean forward" experience, which is sometimes seen as an extension of a day job.

 For those of us who read newspapers, this is all good, as are the reports that all national titles (and particularly this one) received a hefty circulation boost over the Olympics. Here was an event that is covered in such depth, and with such professionalism by the BBC, and yet people went in ever-increasing numbers to their newsagents so that they could pore over the written word. Those TV montages are brilliantly constructed, but it seems the British public are not yet ready to forsake some well-written, hard-headed analysis in favour of an array of images calculated to catch the mood of a lachrymose nation.

There were many things to enjoy in that closing ceremony, but among the Spices, the human cannonballs, the sad tribute bands and the endless Kate Bush, there were one or two messages that director Stephen Daldry had planted. If one was a belief in the primacy of the written word, and its ability to effect change and inspire freedom, I won't be resentful about investing those three hours of my life on Sunday night.


React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing