I thought it appropriate to begin a blog about New Media with a photo of the raw materials of old media: “trash” pine trees planted for pulpwood in the late 1940s. The pines in the photo are in our back yard. They are more than 100 feet tall, and they are almost 70 years old.
The property owner planted pines on his land after World War II, planning to harvest them later for the pulpwood needed to make paper. But he apparently changed his mind when he realized he could make more money selling the property to a developer in the mid-1950s.
The developer built the houses but didn’t cut down all the pine trees. Sixty years later, most of the pines are gone, cut down by homeowners weary of cleaning pine straw off the roof and having pine trees fall into their kitchens and bedrooms. We’ve kept most of the pines on our property. There were 31 in our front and back yards when we moved here in 1991; about 25 are left.
In a way, the pines are an anachronism. They were planted to be sold as pulpwood, but then the land they were growing on became more valuable than they were. The pines lost their original purpose, yet some have managed to hang on and grow tall for more than 60 years.
I think “old media” — newspapers, magazines, radio, television — have the same kind of tenacity as our pine trees. Some venerable old media organizations are hanging on, refusing to die quite yet. But they are aging, along with most of their audience, and much of today’s literate technocracy is passing them by.
The fate of our pine trees is uncertain. We won’t cut them down as long as we’re living here, but I doubt they’ll last long after we leave. Pines aren’t trendy and they’re messy trees. Most of our neighbors cut their pines down long ago.
We don’t know how long old media organizations can survive. But they are failing, and they have little chance of survival unless they adopt some New Media characteristics.