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

Kelner's View

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But bear with me, because I have news for you: while print is considered an outdated medium, not capable of matching the speed, accessibility and versatility of digital channels, it still occupies a central place in our culture.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

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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
UK Border Control  

Do you think I'm feckless? I worked for two years in the Netherlands

David Ryan
Bob Geldof  

Ebola is a political AND a medical disease

Paul Vallely
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin