Google is your friend

Our style at the paper — following the AP — assumes that readers can recognize a telephone number. We'll write, "Contact Trooper Jones at 555-1234," or even just, "Trooper Jones, 555-1234."

We don't write: "Call Trooper Jones on the telephone by dialing his telephone number, 555-1234." That would be considered redundant. It would also make us sound like time travelers from the past, people still somewhat bewildered and awestruck by the newfangled telephone.

Readers know that three digits, a hyphen, and four more digits is a phone number. We don't have to point that out. We don't have to worry that they won't know what to do with these numbers — that they might write 555-1234 on an envelope and try to mail it to Trooper Jones.

But our style still assumes that readers cannot recognize an e-mail or Web address, and thus must be instructed what to do with them. We're not satisfied with a simple statement like, "Contact Trooper Jones," Or, "For more information," Instead, we write things like: "Send an e-mail to Trooper Jones at his e-mail address …" or "Log on to the Internets and go to the company's Web site at …"

Such instructions seem archaic, making us sound a bit like those awed and bewildered time travelers. ("Log on" conjures up images of a young Matthew Broderick in War Games. I suppose AOLers — are there any left? — still "log on" to the Web, but I don't remember the last time I did.)

This is a relatively minor style point, of course, but it's typical of what Jay Rosen calls the "Curmudgeon Class."

The link there is to a corker of a post on the fear, suspicion, fear, reluctance, fear, incomprehension and also fear with which so many of the moguls of print journalism view any new media.

The main theme of Rosen's post is that Google is not the enemy of newspapers. This is, of course, something these print moguls would already know if they had ever had occasion to use The Google. Rosen links to this post from Heather Hopkins in which she points out that:

Google's footprint among News and Media Web sites is larger than its rank would suggest because most visitors leave Google News to go to another news provider. … 28 percent of visits from Google News UK went to print media Web sites.

Read that again: 28 percent of Google News readers are directed to print media sites. Google, in other words, operates like Edmund Gwenn's Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street — "You go to Gimbel's. They'll have exactly what you're looking for."

Readers are grateful for this service, but the other beneficiaries of Google's assistance — all those print media sites on the receiving end of that flood of traffic — do not share this gratitude. Instead, they resent Google for it.

"Curmudgeonly" is too kind a term for this resentful foolishness.

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  • Fraser

    Meant to add, I still have AOL dial-up. I don’t want to spend the money on wireless, and while I could do all my email from work, the option of doing it from my recliner on a weekend morning is worth having the AOL option.

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