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But bear with me, because I have news for you: while print is considered an outdated medium, not capable of matching the speed, accessibility and versatility of digital channels, it still occupies a central place in our culture.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

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

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page


Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments