Years ago, so many years I don’t want to remember how many, the Big Boss Man at the paper where I was editor strolled into the newsroom, pulled me aside and whispered, “I have GREAT NEWS! There’s this new thing called the Internet that’s going to change the way we do business!”
At the time, he didn’t realize exactly how much it would change the way we did business, and I’m sure he didn’t realize it could put us out of business. He said the Internet was like a gigantic genie. When you rubbed the lamp, you got the whole world, real and imaginary, at your fingertips, including Neverland and Oompa Loompa Ville. It would be, he assured me, a limitless source of research and knowledge, although he neglected to say distraction.
My mind was too puny to grasp the dimensions of this brave new world invented by Al Gore. I still don’t get it, probably because my brain has shrunk. However, my first reaction to the GREAT NEWS was that this Internet thingamajig could cause problems in my newsroom, so I blurted out, “We have to control this creation!”
I was acting like the frightened villagers in Frankenstein or the guy in science fiction movies who, upon hearing aliens have landed in Yankee Stadium, insists, “These creatures could end life as we know it in The Bronx! We have to destroy them before they abduct A-Rod and J.Lo!”
No one ever imagined the Internet could end life as we knew it in the newspaper business or any other business for that matter, including book publishing, music, retail, real estate, television … there are too many to list. Nevertheless, Big Boss was excited like most big bosses who discover an innovation and immediately wonder, “How many jobs can I cut?”
Big Boss: “With the Internet we can GIVE our news away, and it will let reporters have the world at their fingertips! We won’t need librarians or researchers! It’s a MIRACLE!”
Me: “Instead of leaving the office to cover stories, reporters will be screwing around with this Internet thing … and why do you want to give away our news?”
Big Boss: “These changes will usher in the next great age of journalism!”
I was chastised for my lack of vision. Regrettably, I’m not Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg or even Colonel Sanders. We got the Internet and our lives changed dramatically because we had unlimited resources, which included porn sites, movies, YouTube videos, games, and countless diversions that frittered away the workday and kept the staff from doing what they should’ve been doing. I was no longer an editor, I became Dean of Discipline.
With social media and mobile devices that let you shop, gamble, harass, sext, etc. online, our lives did change. Even though the Internet is an amazing tool for the betterment of humankind and alien life forms, it can also be an enormous time-waster.
I don’t want to say, “I told you so” to Big Boss, who retired to a deserted outpost somewhere in Northern New England where there’s no Internet; however, a recent study concluded the U.S. workplace could be losing $15 billion in productivity every year because people are doing personal business for almost eight hours a week, much of it on their cellphones. The study, which was sponsored by the firm Office Team, surveyed 600 workers and managers nationwide and said the average employee spends five hours a week on the cellphone doing things that have nothing to do with work. That doesn’t include other personal business conducted on company time for 42 minutes a day.
“All in all, the average employee could be wasting more than eight hours per workweek on activities unrelated to the job,” researchers said.
Walk down the hall and you’ll see coworkers on their mobile phones and office computers — planning weddings, playing fantasy football, shopping for lingerie, looking at pornography, downloading movies, carrying on relationships, licit and illicit, playing games and text-messaging. They’re checking email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They’re reading celebrity news, free news and fake news.
I should add that the prophesied great age of journalism is here. Finally, we can read stories on our mobile devices like, “Jen Aniston not ashamed of her breasts” and “Paris Hilton: I regret my sex tape.”
Life is good, Big Boss. Thanks for the memories.