The above blog post fueled ridicule of a questioner who, during a presentation for E Ink at the Future of Science Journalism Symposium, gave voice to a fundamental divide between print and electronic media that must be reconciled. Could the marketing director’s electronic-paper-display software and device, the journalist in the audience asked, do for her what a traditional broadsheet newspaper does, enable her to scan through its content? Clearly, many have missed her point in asking such a question. Surely this woman does not suggest that commuters lug with them on the subway an over-sized gadget. And unless she intends to then print out the displays so she can “feel” the pages between her fingers (my History of Journalism professor actually once said this in class), she is not some member of a new race of troglodytes, averse to computer screens and electronic text.
Until a more “human-like” graphical user interface (GUI) is developed, new-media apologists should admit that print journals still trump their digital counterparts when it comes to presentation of the news. There are rumblings of slow developments in this arena, such as “zooming” (zoomable user interface or ZUI), which is said to be closer to the human model of scanning and narrowing in on information. This could solve one of the major drawbacks to on-line news: interfacing. The first Web news source that adopts this technology will be a hero and leave its competitors leagues behind, competitors who still won’t have asked themselves, “what about broadsheet worked“. Our questioner wasn’t longing for the past, she was learning from it.