I am employed by a newspaper. No, I’m not on the writing staff. I deliver bundles to businesses and foot carriers to the tune of some 1100 each night. On Sundays, this increases to around 1400. My employer has around 28,000 subscribers, which is considerably down from the 40,000 or so of a few short years ago. They have made cutbacks in many areas and this trend continues to gain momentum. I sincerely hope I can remain employed there until retirement age, but I’ve got a little over 16 years to go, and there is no question that the this medium is slowly dying; as similar fates are befalling newspapers everywhere. As you read this, you may be questioning why, then, is this article on the “yes” side? Here is my answer: Many are confused on this topic. How so?
Just because the concept of a physical paper loaded with ink and slick advertisements from sponsors appears to be headed for extinction doesn’t mean that the written word is likewise doomed. It may be replaced by electronic media, but if you prefer to go online to get your news instead of building a collection of newspapers on your front porch, you are still reading written text; are you not? If you prefer to simply tune in to the 6:00 or 10:00 News on your local television station, or for that matter; CNN, that personable commentator isn’t just improvising. He or she is either reading a teleprompter that contains written text or has memorized its contents. If you choose to read Stephen King’s latest blockbuster novel in the form of an E-book instead of buying a paperback or hardback copy at Wal-Mart, you are still reading written text. For that matter, this very article that you are reading, along with the thousands of other works by authors on Helium, is written text. It may not appear in any magazine or book, but you are nevertheless reading it on your computer screen; are you not?
Barring natural instincts; such as pulling your hand away from a burning fire or trying to escape the clutches of a fierce grizzly bear that has you in mind for dinner, everything we do; everything that is learned; is dependent on the written word. It is ridiculously naive to believe otherwise. Put simply, an intelligent society would not be able to function without it. Even the most primitive cave dwellers who lived tens of thousands of years ago made use of written symbols. In a world absent of this medium, language itself could not exist and no dominant species would be able to evolve. As human beings solely reliant on audible sounds, we would be reduced to grunting and groaning to one another and furthermore possess the approximate brain capacity of a dog. Likewise, our life spans would become comparable to that of dumb animals. Without any common written language, education at even the most rudimentary level would be impossible and therefore nobody would know what to do if his or her counterpart fell ill or was injured. The unfortunate individual would simply die.
We are exposed to all kinds of media every day, and this will continue. The manner in which we receive it may change, but until the day arrives when some fantastic science fiction writer’s vision of a superhuman, telepathic race becomes reality, our very livelihoods will be dependent on written text.