One of my favorite images from The Art of the Message, an exhibit I curated on the evolution of the modern newspaper, is a cut-away view of Chicago's Tribune Tower from the mid-1930s. The building was designed to be a vertically integrated newspaper factory, from the summit where cartoonists spent their days thinking up new adventures for the likes of Dick Tracy and Brenda Starr, to the sub-basements where enormous rolls of paper (from the Tribune's own mills that turned trees from the Tribune's own forests into newsprint) were fed into massive presses. It was said that when the presses started a new run, vibrations could be felt throughout the building.
Imagine being in the newsroom and experiencing the rush of news—News!—on its way out into the world. Words born in the urgent staccato of a manual typewriter transformed, via linotype machine, into hot metal for a printing plate. Then a brush of ink, a rocket ride through a press and soon on every street corner a vendor yelling, "Read all about it! Get your papers here!"
Hitting the "publish" button on a blog post has none of that drama, but still holds a thrill. At least for me—and every time. Writing is never easy. Distilling thoughts into words is at once the most confounding and the most marvelous thing I know how to do. It is a journey. Even when I have a pretty good idea what I plan to write about, I never quite know where a story will take me or what I'll learn along the way.
This is especially true of blog posts, for which the audience is often unclear. There is a freedom in that. I write mostly for myself to clarify thoughts, sometimes to vent and also to share with people I think might be interested. Occasionally, a post will take on a life of its own, circulating through the vagaries of social networks, resonating with strangers who, remarkably, take the time to "like," "heart," link, share and occasionally send emails.
I have been writing blog posts now for at least a decade. Favorite formats change—Wordpress segues to Tumblr segues to Medium. A couple of others have faded with the fortunes of the startups that hosted them online, underscoring just how ephemeral and fragile cyber words can be. I can look at newspaper clippings from over a century ago and they are living fossils, delivering words in exactly the same way they always have, surrounded by ads caught in exactly the same time matrix. Now, if there are ads in the layout (looking at you Tumblr, post Yahoo!), they not only change with the day, they can change with each view and for each viewer, creating a kind of temporal vertigo.
I have linked to some of my favorite posts and archives. They cover an idiosyncratically eclectic range of subjects, from cicadas and mushrooms to viruses and politics. That's the joy of writing posts: They can be about anything and published at any time.
Only one thing could make it even better: feeling the building vibrate, even just a little, when I hit "Publish" and the cyber-presses begin to roll.
— J. A. Ginsburg