Online and On Board

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Web-based publishing has one sure advantage over its ink-dwelling counterpart.

Jeff WeinstockJIM HIRSCH MAY need some convincing of this, but God bless online content.In a recent article on data-driven decision-making, we mistakenly elevatedMr. Hirsch to the summit of his profession, identifying him as a schoolsuperintendent. (Cut to Managing Editor Olivia LaBarre: "Who's this we?")

He's actually a notch south.

Alerted to the error, we set the text right online, where you will find Hirsch introduced by his correct title: associate superintendent. The printed version, however, is a keepsake, blemished and flawed and a constructive reminder that journalism always, always, always punishes assumptions. Its text was set in inalterable, unassailable ink the moment it was forged at the printing house.

Score another point for online publishing, providing more momentum to a steadfast drift I've been reluctant to acknowledge or defer to. For good reason. I have a dog in this race-- without printed content, I'm out of a job. Then again, the more errors I let slip through to the magazine, the less likely I'll be around long enough for digital media to phase me out.

This must be the season for epiphanies, because I'm warming up to things and ideas I had long sworn against. Witness my freshly opened Facebook account, and my new taste for sardines. I wasn't raised on the internet, but I'm no ink-stained wretch. I'm astride both formats, partaking actively of the immediacy of online content while retaining the enjoyment of holding a printed publication in one's hands. And that will continue to be the case, because you can't curl up with a good URL. Neither can you fold it over, crease it, and fold it again, in fourths, the way my father does with his morning newspaper, leaving it a masterwork of accidental origami.

But having to swiftly let the air out of Jim Hirsch's career trajectory allowed me to see that web-based content has its own advantages. That phrase that something "lives online," which always struck me as overwrought, sounds spot-on now. It lives and breathes online, open to change and reconsideration-- and hasty retouching whenever necessary. Of course, growing too comfortable with that kind of flexibility may undermine perfectionism-- being able to set your mistakes right could naturally lead you to make more of them. Plus, the lack of finality leaves you nothing to reflect on. How do we hold our monthly postmortem if there's never any mortem?

This is no pro/con debate, though. Better to consider online publishing a companion, not a threat, to the printed word. But I'm happy to see that it does pose a threat to one of life's stubborn axioms. Who says you can't unring a bell? You can now.

-Jeff Weinstock, Executive Editor

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2008 issue of THE Journal.

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