THE BLOG
06/12/2009 12:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Why the Town Crier Shall Perish Not, E'en Though the News-Paper Be Heere

There be much loose talk these days, in Publick spaces diverse, about the looming death of Spoken News. It is voiced about that Mr. Gutenberg's new beast, which is called PRINT, and hath spawned a "News-Paper," must in time spelle the eternal Doom of the noble Towne Crier, who doth yet call the news from the centre of every Towne, oblivious to his FATE, telling the events of the day as he hath since ancient time.

Steppest thou NOT to this latest fad! This News-Paper cannot replace our Towne Cryers, and here is the logick...

First, people care not what happens in distant lands, but only about the doings in their own places. Moreover, ye wouldst surely hear the news from a son of local birth, whom thou knowst, and who hath held the corner since his father before him, and not decipher it from a cold stack of butcher-paper.

In sooth this News-Paper doth not know the news at all; it is a dead thing. Flat, and square, and thin as the seat of a whore's stocking. Canst thou ask thy News-Paper for its opinion? It hath none. Can it convey emotion or nuance? Will't confirm or deny a vague point? Debate the merit of what it tells? Verily, it cannot!

And where doth this News-Paper get its news from? Why, from the very same Towne Criers, of course! It gets news of overseas from the speaker at the wharf; overhears crime from the Spokes-man at the Gaol; political intrigue from the whisperer at city hall. And the News-Paper pays not these speakers whose words it doth parrot, but only writes down slavishly what is said, and passeth that news along again, for a price, to the unwitting.

How then can the News-Paper replace the Town Crier, when it dependeth on him for its lifeblood? It cannot be!

Yet are there some who would have us all take up letters, and learn to READ, and live as monks do, shirking the love of woman. Yes, we shall fell the great forests of the world, and grind them all to pulp, and squeeze sea monsters for their ink, and pile bundles high with News-Papers in their dozens, as like one another as blades of grass, that we may eagerly fix today's crop reports and fever outburst in the great History of the World.

For once a thing be set in Print, it is unchangeable forever: as fixed in place as the Earth is at the center of the universe. And thus shall we press and flatten and squirt and stack our way to a Future in which every Word a man may say in lust or anger may not be recalled, not ever, but rather is recorded and saved and revered forever, like the shinbone of a saint.

And mothers shall not sing no more, but rather will read the words of strangers to their children, wiring lenses together to bend their eyes to the unnatural task, and will ignore their children's lamentation. Neither will lovers coo; they will instead go to a shop where Paper cards are stamped out with trite and common Maxims, each card the same as the one behind it, and present these sentiments to their sweethearts as if they were their own.

Heaven forbid!

These purveyors of News-Papers must be stopped, by the holy mother Church if by none other. Verily, hath Print not the stink of witchcraft about it? Of course, I do not directly advocate the Printers' torture, and forced recantation, and death on the wheel or the rack. One might look into it, is all I'm saying.

May the day never come when a man doth open his Doore at sunup or sundown, eager for the News, but heareth only silence, and wonder that there is no news, and look down to find on his doorstep only a dead loaf of News, a rolled-up thing that, for all its Worth, might as well be carried into his house in the mouth of a dog.

Nay, as long as there be news and a town to cry it in, there will always be Town Criers. Printed news is a fad, like Bathing; all the News-Papers of the world, stacked up, will never amount to more than a pedestal for the noble, eternal Town Crier. And thus will the News-Paper only raise him up the higher, and extend the range of his power, that his voice might carry further, yea, even all the way to the ends of the street.