Anyone over, say, about 40, who has worked in the non-profit world remembers the clipping service. It was an off-site newspaper reading service that your organization would pay to scan all the relevant media every morning to see if you or your issue was mentioned. In the early days, the service would literally cut and clip the articles and messenger them over to your office so that you could be as up to date by midday on the issues of the day as possible.
The communications department would then copy the best articles and circulate them around the staff. Sometimes there would be a cover sheet, and the initials of everyone in your department with a place to check your name after you had read the attached articles and sent them onto your next colleague.
Of course, the rise of online media turned the clips into links, and everything became much easier. Today, my communications department wakes up at 6:00 in the morning to get the news from Israel, and by the time I get to my computer by 6:30, I have links to any relevant and late-breaking news. The clipping serivce still exists, but everything is electronically delivered.
I am a bit of a Facebook addict, not only for the updates on friends’ lives and comings and goings, but also for the recommended reading. In many ways, Facebook is like a giant clipping service, offering up an array of articles throughout the course of the day that have been vetted by friends and colleagues.
If anything, Twitter is a condensed Facebook in this way, clip after clip after clip, recommended by people I have chosen to follow. And on Twitter, you don’t have to see cousin Elaine’s cute meme of a cat or yet another praiseful prayer of life.
Years ago, long before the ease of hyperlinks, my mother was the original clipping queen. I still have a large cardboard box filled with many of the articles she sent me over the years, from college through to young adulthood and after I married and had kids. The articles she sent me were almost exclusively from the the New York Times, her primary reading material. And even though I was (and am) a pretty loyal Times reader as well, she still managed to send me those things that I had missed, and in which I actually was interested.
Articles about Brooklyn (my home), about Washington, DC (my adopted home), about my work interests (philanthropy and fundraising), articles about the issues women faced in the world -- as mothers, as daughters, as sisters, as employees, as wives, as friends. Articles about traveling to far away places she had either visited or planned to visit. Articles about books I might enjoy, movies I might like, theater and dance performances I might attend. There were articles of every stripe … and especially by and about our shared favorite NYT columnist at the time – the great Anna Quindlen.
Whenever I open that box, I am carried back to a time and a place. I get nostalgic about my mother, and her dedication to making sure I saw things she thought I would enjoy. And I also think about how nice it was to get a fat envelope in the mail, with a little nugget from my mom, a good article to read that would still get my hands dirty from the ink, and a moment where I could stop and enjoy a short respite from the other responsibilities of the day.
Today, we all have our own personal clipping services. Many of us follow hundreds of Facebook friends and Twitter handles. Our Tweet Decks look like the ticker tape on the floor of the stock exchange. It would be impossible to keep up with all the information being fed to us each day, each hour, each minute. Generally speaking, in the course of a minute, I can have 25-45 new tweets hit my home page.
So I have learned how to filter my feeds – and I am very selective about which articles I actually will open up and re-share (farewell, Huff Post.) And I am learning how to carefully post my clips – with meaning and a target audience.
I like when my friends “like” my posts. I get a kick out of sharing my political interests, the organizations I support, and news about my neighborhood and larger metropolitan area. I enjoy the convenience of the web, allowing me to turn into my own personal clipping service without even having to get out of my chair to get a pair of scissors and an envelope.
And even though technology has changed the way we deliver the news, it hasn’t changed our desire to share the news. In fact, it has made it easier. So on I soldier, culling out the best of each day’s offerings and share it with my friends and family. As my kids get older and begin to launch, they will start to get, if not daily, then at least regular, clips as well.
So the tradition lives on. My mother’s clipping service is alive and well and hyperlinked.
Photo by NS Newsflash via Flickr