Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't.
Grave sites aren't what they used to be.
Making the eSCENE
Must fiction be print to be hip?
The Living and the Dead
An in-depth look at death in America reveals how stories become the salves of the living.
The Wings of Perseus
The modern-day world of the ancients.
A new Internet guide with venerable roots.
Bureaucrats with 'Tude
The IRS tries to lighten up. It's a bit of a strain.
For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
December 10, 1997|
It has been widely predicted that the availability of customized news on the Internet will do away with the need for the old-fashioned mass-market newspaper. But, as John Cassidy recently pointed out in The New Yorker (October 20 & 27, 1997), the opposite has in fact occurred. "Publishing companies all over the country are making record profits," he writes, "which means that newspapers have survived what was supposedly their last gasp and are now, in a way, the next big medium." In other words, no matter how much readers may appreciate regular online delivery of, say, hourly stock quotes or real-time sports scores, the desire remains to find common ground with others by keeping up with what is held to be of interest to all. The problem is that this common ground is all too often sought out in news stories about violence and catastrophe, corruption and greed.
There is an alternative, as illustrated by USA Today's online "Weird News" feature, which -- following in the tradition of Chuck Shepherd's syndicated "News of the Weird" column -- consists of brief summaries of quirky happenings from around the world. Readers of the feature have recently been informed, for example, that town officials in Orlando, Florida, closed down a dance studio because the instructors had a habit of wearing nothing other than boots and spurs; that in Virginia a woman was arrested for putting earrings on a deer; that in California a group of college students beat the world record for the longest Uno card game (and in the process raised money for the homeless by getting sponsors); and that the residents of an English town painted one of its streets (including the houses) entirely pink, as part of a Barbie doll publicity event.
True, none of these events is likely to change the course of history. But in the long run, a regular diet of such odds and ends could serve to remind us that our common humanity is rooted as much in the weird and the whimsical as it is in the morbid and the frightening.
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.