Technology is awesome…sometimes

Recently my wife and I got a hankering to see our grandson. He’s 15 months old and lives with his mother in Nebraska while his daddy (my son Matt) is away at basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Years ago, we’d have to be content with asking them to send a photo to us via snail mail. A week after our request, we’d get a photo of baby Gavin.

Instead, my wife and I settled down with my laptop, opened up Skype, and within minutes were talking to Gavin and his mom face to face. At one point, Gavin even reached for the screen, offering me one of the Cheerios he was eating at the time. He could see us, but wasn’t ready to fathom how technology overcomes distance in such a significant, personal way.

The next day, I went into the hospital for a procedure that involved them sticking a very sharp, very long needle into the side of my neck to investigate a cyst that had invaded my thyroid. While the medical professionals stood to my right and worked on me, I looked out of the corner of my eye to my left. There on the ultrasound screen I could see the cyst they were talking about and working on. I could even see the needle that punctured through my tissue and the cyst itself. I could see the work they were doing inside my body in an effort to keep me healthy. Amazing.

Technology continues to keep me in awe. Even though I am surrounded by it every day, I’m old enough to appreciate what it brings us in a way that many students can’t. They’ve been exposed to computers, video and other wonders since birth. I started my work as an editor in the 70s using IBM Selectric typewriters and linotypes, the same hot metal typesetting that had been used for decades, perhaps even since the 1800s. I remember when the fax machine was new, and I marveled that we could send a piece of paper—or at least a representation of it—anywhere in the world within seconds.

And even though I am getting older, technology waits for no man. It’s affected every major and department here at Southwestern, but nowhere has it become more evident than in the communication department. People continually ask me if journalism is dead. Will journalism majors have a job when they graduate? Folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The website you see before you is part of my response to that question. Journalism is far from dead. It’s evolving. Yes, Virginia, there is a future for journalists. We’ll always have need for news. What final form that future will take, I will admit, has yet to be determined. But whatever it is, it’s exciting. I am honored that I can be part of that evolution from the ground floor and I encourage students to do the same.

The original Southwesterner website was started three years ago because students decided to convert the Southwesterner newspaper into a campus magazine. I was still convinced that there was need for a news resource on campus, and saw that having a news website would give students—especially journalism majors—a vehicle for applying the writing, photography and editing skills they were learning in class. In three year, editors and writers of the Southwesterner posted 450 stories. Not bad for a small campus.

The original Southwesterner website was great in its time, but technology never rests. The new Southwesterner that you see before you has many more capabilities, including audio, video, photography and print. There are even some features we haven’t discovered yet, or had the time to implement. I encourage you to explore the website and explore the possibilities with us.

My father had a saying: “You’ve got to be smarter than the thing you’re working with.” That applies in two ways here. First, be patient with us. We’re learning. The website is like a flashy new Camaro, and right now we’re just able to get it out of the driveway and around the block. Eventually we’ll make it onto the freeway, but it might take a little time.

Second, I am constantly reminding myself that it’s all about one thing: content. Pardon me for saying so, but web readers are fickle. They expect new content—as much as possible as soon as possible. I’m aware of it. I am working—writing, editing, taking pictures, talking to possible contributors—as fast as I can. What I need more than anything are volunteers—photographers, bloggers, writers, videographers—who like what they see and would like to be a part of the Southwesterner staff.

More than anything, let us know how you feel. If you like it, send us a comment. If you don’t, have questions, concerns or complaints, we’d like to hear them too.
I am thrilled that we have come to this point. I’m ready for my baby to be introduced to the world. Friends and alumni, students, faculty and staff of Southwestern Adventist University, meet the new Southwesterner.

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