Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Reading Bratt's Kuyper (v)

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Motherlode
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Dear NYTimes.com Reader:

We are pleased to announce the launch of Motherlode, our free weekly e-newsletter about all things parenting. Raising healthy, well-adjusted kids isn't easy. The weekly Motherlode newsletter covers it all -- homework, sex, child care, eating habits, sports, technology and much more. Motherlode features lead blogger KJ Dell'Antonia and includes the feature, "How I Do It," profiling a full day in a parent's work-family juggle.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Last week, me and a gadzillion others opened an e-mail that tried to sell us on a new project created by the venerable NY Times, something they call Motherlode, an e-newsletter aimed at parents--not just mothers, as in women, despite the sweet joke in the title. 
They're not idiots at the Times. They know--better than most--how the times have changed. They're aware that every day thousands of people across North America drop newspaper subscriptions and pick up what they want to hear elsewhere, news-wise, on-line. They know--better than most--that the only magazines to make it these days are highly specialized, with titles like Mud-Wrestling Times, or Quality Muskrat Trapping--niche stuff.
They also understand that in this information-glutted world, how-to books still do very, very well since most of us tend to believe that the answer to most of life's vexing problems lie somewhere in Google's vast domain--if we only knew the right questions.
So, the nation's most venerable newspaper is starting an e-newsletter just for moms (of both genders) with a daily feature no one can possibly turn down:  "How I Do It."
The New York Times is going niche because that's where the bucks are. That's serious marketing.  The world seems niche.
You don't have to be an old testament prophet to know America will never have another Walter Cronkite, an entire nation's anchor.  But then, once upon a time, the dial on every American TV featured only three networks, each of whom ran advertised programs at TV Guide-scheduled times. 
Today that remote on your coffee table features hundreds of programs, and if your TV is wired, a million others. Netflix releases an entire series of hot, dark TV drama, House of Cards, complete--every last episode right there so you can spend your entire weekend watching nothing but Kevin Spacey.
The remote's in your hands. You push the buttons. You put what you want up there on the screen.  It's beautifully democratic.  No more genuflecting to network execs. You watch what you want, when you want. Want the news your way?--go to FOX or MSNBC.
It's a brave new world.
There will never be another Walter Cronkite, but neither will there ever be another Abraham Kuyper. He was, of course, a preacher; but he was also a politician, Prime Minister of the Netherlands. He was a political organizer, the dynamic behind his own political party, and he started a major university.  Busy guy.
But James Bratt says the key to most of that endless crusading was the fact that Abraham Kuyper was an indefatigable journalist, writing op-eds and meditations at a rate to suggest he did nothing at all but turn out copy. 
In fact, even his newspaper was new. Kuyper published it first on April 1, 1872, not April Fool's Day, but the anniversary of a brawl of some significance to Dutch independence, an event of historic importance whose magnitude, Bratt says, paraphrasing Kuyper, "could be matched today if people paused amid their patriotic hoopla to remember God and recommit themselves to the sacred mission for which their nation had been raised up."
Kuyper was the editor of the Standaard for the rest of his life. Here's how Bratt distinguishes that office:
The Standaard editorship was. . .the role where he could combine all the others through which he passed in the mean time--preacher, teacher, and politician. The paper was the only place where most of his followers ever heard him, but there they heard him to great effect.  For many it provided a post-elementary school education, a sustained induction into politics, culture, and social affairs. In the process Kuyper not only promoted a party but organized a movement and shaped a people.
It's not likely to happen again.  I wonder how he'd have fared on Facebook.

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