Thinking in sentences |

Thinking in sentences

Don Rogers

Saturday night: The boy went to the movies with his girlfriend. Wife and daughter are on the train to San Francisco, no doubt listening to all those CDs they cleaned out of my car and the house. It’s a long ride from Glenwood Springs.

I’m contemplating whether to rent a movie or two, or dip into the reading pile, after wrapping up some editing and this blog entry.

Surveys say reading is way down – whether books, magazines or newspapers. So are CD sales, last year’s concert attendance, and watching the big TV news anchors.

Still, television steals nearly as much time out of our lives as sleep, and the big hits generally are just a a tiny bit more intellectually stimulating than those old test patterns that use to come on when stations went off the air.

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I’m liking the rise of the Internet, at least while text still dominates. Yes, I know that will change, as video gets better. But these days, I’m liking the Web sites, the e-mail, the blogging.

The blogging craze is intriguing. Part of the problem for books, magazines and newspapers is the generations have less and less interest in, well, reading. Long narratives are out, so out. Bits are in, especially moving ones. Give readers red pens these days to circle what exactly they read and newspaper editors across the land get very, very depressed. Cutlines, headlines, breakout boxes, pictures, charts if they are colorful and simply enough – most of those fit inside the circles. The text itself? The lead, maybe. Small parts of most text.

As one lecturer, newspaper designer Tim Harrower, put it during a presentation for my company’s editors and publishers a year ago: Never mind the argument about whether to jump a story from one page to another. The readers aren’t even getting to the jump. Not even close.

And hey, I’m a newspaper editor, love to read – or at least I’m compelled to read. I go through the five papers or more that I read each day in no time. Because I’m not really reading in the way we’re talking here, either.

It would take hourse to read every bit of, say, USA Today. At least that’s what Al Nuarth said once, and I’ll take his word for it.

Newspapers are supposed to be quick reads, I think. I flip through the pages, catching headlines mainly until I see something that makes me curious. The beauty of papers is that often enough, I didn’t realize I’d have an interest in the subject. But there I am, reading about it or more likely, someone and a part of their life.

But I’ve also got my stack of books that I know I want to read, along with the magazines, memos, reports and all that. So I hustle through my papers.

Now, good God, I see in USA Today in Wednesday’s edition that 8.5 million people in the United States are writing blogs. That’s incredible. More incredible is that 48 percent of them come from generations famous for their distaste for the written word.

I’m not so sure 8.5 million people are READING blogs, but maybe that’s not even the point. The act of expression here might be more important. People, at least for the moment, are writing more again. We have a tender new age of not literacy, but literature. People are thinking, and words are important again.

There’s hope in that notion. Maybe we’ll collectively begin to think in, like, sentences again.

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