As you may have read in this space last week, my decades-long partner in crime, Chip Young, has left the column for a gig at golocalprov.com. So first, a word about the new "Cool, Cool World."
That the writing in most publications hews to a sixth-grade reading level is an economic fact of life. But one of the things I have always appreciated about working for the Phoenix organization is that they have allowed the "Cool, Cool World" to indulge in a prose style that would be verboten in most weeklies and nearly all daily papers. This has been an opportunity for me to seek my "inner Sidney."
That, of course, is an allusion to the master (and, not coincidentally, Rhode Island native) writer, S.J. Perelman. So, as you peruse the new "Cool, Cool World," you may notice that, while the structure, subject matter, and tone will remain largely unchanged, the style might seem a bit more florid. That's just the way I roll.
ANNALS OF THE ONGOING CRISIS IN TRADITIONAL JOURNALISM
The New York Times Magazine has undergone a series of changes, of late. Gone, for instance, are the frequently contentious but usually entertaining (and revealing) interrogations conducted by Deborah Solomon (known as "Questions for _______" whomever the interrogee might be), replaced by a column remarkably similar called "Talk" with the interview conducted by Andrew Goldman.
There are new titles — "Reply All" for the Letters section — and it appears that there's a new "Ethicist" in town, Ariel Kaminer. But to my (and I'm sure many others') relief, there are no apparent changes to the puzzles section edited by the great Will Shortz. Some things are sacred, after all.
There was a rather interesting essay by Times ramrod, Bill Keller, in last week's magazine in which he discusses the problem of media "aggregation." As traditional means of communication continue to change and the old economic paradigm no longer holds, one of the more alarming trends is fewer and fewer actual reporters doing journalism in the old-fashioned way. It's a bloggers/talk radio/"aggregators" world with less and less real reporting.
"We have bestowed our highest honor — market valuation — not on those who labor over the making of original journalism but on aggregation," is how Keller puts it. He does however point out that one of the canniest and most successful of the aggregators, Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, seems to have come to "an epiphany" and "realized that if everybody is an aggregator, nobody will be left to make the real stuff to aggregate."
Left unsaid is not just what this implies for the future of "the media" but for the future of our democratic republic. And you better believe that this is dead serious stuff.
EMBARRASSMENT IS MY MIDDLE NAME
It's not exactly a promising prospect that the first "Cool, Cool World" column that I'm penning on my own features an embarrassing correction concerning something in last week's column. But here goes: Reza Clifton, the talented young artistic director at the new Roots Café in downtown Providence is not the daughter of Ed and Audrey Clifton. She's their niece. She is, in fact, the daughter of Ed's brother Bill Clifton and Rogeriee Thompson. (I briefly met Ed and Audrey's son who is — big shock here — a very personable and bright young man who is an airplane pilot.)