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What an age: News updates are as close as the nearest telephone

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

 

ife changes seemingly occur at light speed in this technologically accelerated world.

Many of the extraordinary wonders of my childhood science-fiction favorites have jumped off the bookshelves and exist today in my own house. Sometimes the changes are hard to fathom.

I am decades away from being tethered to the 30-pound metal hulk of a manual typewriter, where my first stories for this newspaper were written. The original computer used here filled an entire room and bulky cables threaded along the walls linked our workstations, which were solely keyboards and monitors with no computing ability except that residing in the massive mainframe.

Today, there’s more memory and functionality in my pocket phone than that 1970s computer could muster on its best day.

Last weekend, the modern marvels helped this newspaper’s staff respond with useful and later tragic information in a way that would have been fictional just a generation ago.

When a series of vehicles collided near Sonora in two separate crashes blocking Interstate 65 in either direction, the newspaper staff responded with exceptional timing. Minutes after police were alerted, the news team was in motion.

Thanks to cell phones, it was an easy process to share data as it developed and coordinate an effective response. In fact, my involvement all occurred while sitting in a tire store awaiting an oil change.

From that venue, the iPhone also allowed me to edit, change and post the initial story and update it to www.thenewsenterprise.com. From that same waiting room miles from the crash and several blocks from the newspaper’s office, the information also was relayed through Twitter and Facebook plus email alerts linking directly to the website story.

Traffic backed up on the interstate as the detours started but countless people found alternate routes along U.S. 31W, U.S. 31E and New Glendale Road after being alerted to the interstate’s delays. As details emerged, the community also had an opportunity to share in the tragic news of six deaths and a Wisconsin family whose Florida vacation ended in horror.

As much as I hate to admit it, new technology sometimes befuddles me. Once an early adapter to wizardry offered by new equipment, it seems now that I’m a bit reluctant and often frustrated. It couldn’t have anything to do with my age, could it?

The real fear for me is entering into the “Blinking 12” period of life. Let me explain. When VCRs first put us in control of our TV watching schedule, my parents eventually acquired one of the machines. On the front amid all the buttons and dials was a digital clock that monitored the tape when it wasn’t telling time. Each time I entered the living room, the VCR clock glowed green with the same numbers, 12:00. The numbers never changed but constantly blinked off and on.

No matter how many times that I set the clock, it would return to its blinking 12 status with any power outage and resetting it was too frustrating to manage, they said.

My life is not blinking 12 just yet but I still marvel at how a tire store waiting room and an modern cell phone can expand the impact and influence of our newsroom.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com or (270) 505-1764.