Stopped in our Tracks

The Internet went offline for about 25 minutes yesterday and it almost stopped us in our tracks. It’s not that we didn’t have anything we could do but two out of three of us were in the middle of doing some research on the web. I was about to write my Free-FM blog. None of that could continue until a main server was rebooted so there we sat.

me at the MIX control board around 1990. Wearing a red jacket and big hair!

When I was the evening jock at MIX 999 in Toronto, someone once walked off with the People magazine I needed and I couldn’t confirm the details of a bit I wanted to do on the air. That’s the 20-years-old equivelant to the Internet going offline! We had access to all of the major newspapers and many magazine subscriptions including Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and a few others. Plus, we all brought in whatever we personally purchased and all mags were kept in a shelf in the common area of the studio. I’d scribble notes on my music sheets to remind myself that I had a little nugget about that artist or knew something about their album. But sometimes one of those notes was just a trigger and I would have to go and look up the original article. Darn it if someone hadn’t taken the exact magazine I needed and I was screwed!

As the station’s entertainment queen, Maureen Holloway got USA Today every morning. Ooooooh the envy and respect that created! The Life section of USA today, along with TV’s Entertainment Tonight, paved the way for the genre of “entertainment news” that we have today. Infotainment, if you will. (Whether that’s good or bad, is up to you!) I used to wait patiently for Mo to wring every bit of interest out of the paper and then retrieve the pen-marked remnants to use as fodder for my evening show. Her show preceeded mine so it didn’t matter if I reused one of her “scoops” as long as she got to do them first. When Mo was away, I had the thrill of unfolding the USA Today for the first time each day.

Now everything is a click away. If you can’t remember something, a couple of well-chosen keywords will bring it to your monitor in a flash. A music host could choose to never read a People (or USA Today, or any other magazine) for the rest of their life and they could still stay well informed. But there’s something sweet and satisfying about bridging the eras before instant info and after, of having had to make notes and remember tidbits and conduct endless offline research in actual books (gasp!) that makes the Internet going down amusing rather than horrifying. But it’s also just as productivity-halting as someone walking away with the People.