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September 30, 2010 - Rick Chatenever
Moderating a panel discussion about the current art show at the MACC last weekend, I felt like we were making history.
Not to mention, becoming history.
The show is “Matthew Thayer and The Maui News: 30 Years of Photojournalism” in Schaefer International Gallery.
The panelists presenting “The Big Scoop” on Maui’s daily newspaper were former publisher Maizie Sanford, former staff writters Jill Engledow and Ron Youngblood, current Staff Writer Ilima Loomis, Circulation Manager Chris Minford and the man himself, photographer Matt Thayer.
The panel was taped by Akaku and will begin airing in November. It’s an interesting jaunt down memory lane, revealing such industry secrets as most journalists’s drug of choice is adrenaline.
Things journalists take for granted —the alchemy of transforming events in time and space into images in words and pictures; the sexy thrill of a deadline; or the soul-stirring sound of a press running at 2,000 rpm—turn out to be fascinating to the uninitiated.
The exhibit itself — punctuated with Maui News front pages, vintage Monty Pythonesque photo equipment and replicas of Matt Thayer’s office and darkroom —triggers all sorts of deja vus and flashbacks for Mauians who visit the gallery.
By framing our way of life through Matt’s insightful and compassionate lens, the show is as much a mirror as a record of events. Even for lifetime residents, it sparks the sense of seeing our home for the first time, with newfound pride.
But just as Matt set out to record changes in the island’s way of life — like the closing of mom-and-pop stores and plantation camps — so the show reflects similar changes in The Maui News.
So much has changed in the decades I’ve worked with Matt, making my own small contributions to what’s displayed on the gallery walls. The technology we use to cover the news has evolved exponentially. The Maui News you’ll experience at the exhibit is no longer the one I come to work at each morning.
Things change. Maybe the things we need to communicate don’t — but the delivery system is brand-new today … and will be brand-new again, six months from now.
At the end of the panel, we faced questions from the audience about topics including new media and social networking. If the medium is still the message, then Facebook is this week’s headline.
First came company chairman Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the schools of Newark, N.J., last week. This weekend, “The Social Network” — based on the creation of Facebook when Zuckerberg was a student at Harvard — opens in movie theaters.
As much as I like screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and young star Jesse Eisenberg, it feels like the movie may be treading on thin ice. It’s the opposite of history — instead of trying to make sense of something that has happened, it’s trying to describe something before we grasp what it really is.
Facebook is … what? There are as many answers to that question as there are tens of thousands of friends logging on to it … every … second.
For certain kinds of reaching out and touching, Facebook can’t be beat. But just like other things that start out as tools and then morph into the engine driving the train, there are consequences that have yet to become visible, much less, to play themselves out.
True, Facebook has amazing powers to span the globe and put you instantaneously in touch with those friends. But closer to home, social networking seems to relieve the need — and possibly the desire — for face-to-face contact, or even a phone call.
Facebook and other forms of new media are where more and more people are getting their news these days. Facebook users spend 700 billion minutes there each month. It’s definitely a hostile environment for weekly newspaper columnists since it’s an equal-opportunity podium for rank amateurs. It’s the promised land for narcissists … along with more voyeuristic sorts, lurkers, who just want to watch.
Letting you create yourself online with images of your choice is an appealing alternative to having to face the real thing, I suppose. But the more time I spend on Facebook, the lonelier place it seems to be. Of course, that’s just one lurker speaking.
In the meantime, there’s Matt Thayer’s wonderful photo show continuing through Oct. 23. Admission is free. Check www.mauiarts.org for gallery hours.
The exhibit is a visit to a time when the news was a way of defining a community and bringing it together — instead of sending us off on our separate paths, our brains and memories in some hand-held device, our fingers busy, our eyes seeing the world through the reflection of our faces on the little screen.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at email@example.com.
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