At least one invention works well

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2007

Newspapers go through a series of stages in their history that often are considered &uot;progress.&uot;

Often, the progress from such evolution is either terribly slow or non-existent. One publisher – whose job includes buying new equipment – from another area of the country is famous for saying, &uot;Every new computer system that is supposed to be faster, cost less and require less maintenance, is none of those things.&uot;

That may or may not be true, but one items relatively new to newspapers that has changed the landscape is the advent is use of e-mail. Never before can so many readers contribute items to their local newspaper with such ease.

As with most new devices introduced to society, newspapers were slow to embrace the advantages email provides. In the old days, which seems like last week for some of us who have more gray hairs than any other color, items for the paper were either hand-written, typed or printed from a computer, then mailed or hand-delivered to the newspaper office. Fax machines came along and accelerated that process, but only by a hair.

Obviously, the tried-and-not-always-true method of getting items to the newsroom was time-consuming for both the reader and the newspaper staff. That information had to be typed again at the office. And anyone who’s been to a newspaper office and has seen a desk in the newsroom knows it’s covered with a lot of paper sent by a lot of people. Even the most organized of news staffers can get overwhelmed.

In this day and age, we still get hundreds of sheets of paper through our fax machines each week, and some of that comes from some pretty odd places. We’ll look at the letterhead from The Massachusetts Institute of Poetry Readers detailing the latest reading held at Marion McShane’s parlor and scratch our heads, wondering how we ever got on that mailing list, and why the Institute would waste its time and money to keep us on their mailing list.

Just like receiving annoying junk mail or useless calls from telemarketers at home, getting removed from such a list almost requires an Act of Congress.

E-mail, however, improves the norm. With so many readers using computers, submitting material electronically requires no paper, no stamps, no burning of gasoline in cars to get here, just as was predicted by those who foresaw a paperless society.

Well, our society is still far from paperless but e-mail is one of the few inventions that actually does what it claims to do.

Keep ’em coming.

PAUL McFARLANE is the editor of The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is