Earlier this week humorist Garrison Keillor had a stroke. According to reports yesterday, he’s now at home recovering. Which is good news to hear. It’s also good to hear Keillor plans to carry on with “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show.
I also hope he plans to continue writing for Salon. His columns underscore his trademark understated humor and insight, as a recent piece on the New Media/Old Media divide demonstrates.
I think he’s spot on here about a chief illness making Old Media sick:
I’m an old media guy and I love newspapers, but they were brought down by a long period of gluttonous profits when they were run as monopolies by large, phlegmatic, semi-literate men who endowed schools of journalism that labored mightily to stamp out any style or originality and to create a cadre of reliable transcribers.
As someone enamored of Old Media, it’s a shame seeing it crumbling; it’s a shame especially to see the demise of stylish — and substantive — magazine features. Of seeing once-great magazines like Rolling Stone shrink — it literally shrunk in size, but its features have been shrinking for years. Could you imagine a 6,000-word piece by a literary journalist like Tom Wolfe in Rolling Stone‘s pages now?
The style and compactness of some features now would make Hemingway feel constipated, and his prose transmogrify into something Faulknerian.
And what will the next version of Gay Talese’s classic “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” be? “Paris Hilton Has a Brain Cell”?
Keillor’s also spot on about one of New Media’s chief cancers — tumors of information on superficialities:
What the new media age also means is that there won’t be newspapers to send reporters to cover the next war, but there will be 6 million teenage girls blogging about their plans for the weekend. There will be no TV networks to put on dramas in which actors in costume strut and orate and gesticulate, but you can see home video of dogs and anybody’s high school graduation anywhere in America. We will be a nation of unpaid freelance journalists and memoirists.
This, of course, as Keillor adds, may not be that bad. Maybe in a decade all our brains will be able to handle will be videos of dogs or reading updates on teenage girls’ plans. And we’ll be unable to laugh along with Jay Leno when some college graduate can’t identify the Gettysburg Address. We’ll scratch our heads along with the graduate, and go on to the next text message.
I wish Garrison Keillor good health.