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The sound of silence is rare commodity

June 22, 2008|By JAKE WOMER

Does anybody know how I can invest in silence?

I'm betting there will be a time when silence will be a hot commodity.

I realized this last week during a trip back from a conference.

As in most industries, we in the newspaper business go to seminars where we discuss trends, innovation and the future. At this latest conference, I've heard speakers and attendees say that the next generation will never pick up a newspaper, as if kids would break out in hives when they touch newsprint.

Maybe they're right. I see the way teens and 20-somethings use cell phones and smart phones, and I wonder if an ear actually can grow around a cell phone, or if there will be a future arthritic condition known as "texting thumb" ... or maybe "knuckle tunnel."

Seems inevitable.

At The Herald-Mail, a lot of effort is aimed at developing digital content, and rightly so. The Web, text messaging and e-mail alerts offer the newspaper a way to disseminate breaking news. The opportunities for immediate notification are growing every day.

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We can let readers know about traffic jams, school closings and more that becomes old news by the time the morning newspaper hits the street.

The newspaper still delivers the news in an interesting, informative and comprehensive package.

Technological evolution is unstoppable, and I'm glad this company is changing with the times. I'm on the technological train as far as looking at how it can get breaking news in front of readers and Web users.

I use the Web and e-mail at work all day. The benefits are clear. I love it. It makes life easier.

But when I leave work, I'm ready to turn 180 degrees. Outside of work, I'm happy to ignore the Web.

In my personal life, I'm ready to boycott technology because it feels like we've reached the point of diminishing returns related to how it affects lives.

I'm grateful for electricity, cars and air conditioning, but I think I've had enough of the ever-encroaching Internet, cell phones, whatever.

Private information no longer is private, and private conversations seem like an arcane concept.

Anywhere you go, you see people glued to their cell phones - in their cars, in a store, walking down the street, in movie theaters, at a concert, at a ballgame, on the beach. They're talking away for all the world to hear, and they're missing a world of experiences.

There's no sense of just living in the moment. People always are connected to somewhere else, and that seems sad.

How can we gain a sense of peace when we're not really where we are?

One of my most peaceful moments of the week is reading the Sunday morning newspaper early - in a still-quiet house - with a steaming cup of coffee in hand.

I'm ready to start scouting for locations to build an isolated cabin in the woods.

I don't need to pull a Thoreau, but at least unplug me, please. Otherwise, I will need to have a moment of silence for silence itself.

Jake Womer is assistant city editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7682, or by e-mail at jakew@herald-mail.com.

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