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A Kind Word for Social Media

Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor, Hawthorne Publishing

Media critics are descrying it for ruining teenaged girls’ self-esteem, parents are trying fruitlessly to get cellphones out of the hands of their daughters and sons for at least an hour at dinner, Congress is studying restrictive laws to curb the power—Social Media. They dominate our society, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tic Tok, Snapchat,—-. Their controversial and threatening power to politicize, to control any cause they disagree with by shutting down sites or contributors is undisputed. Their subscribers are in the billions. The Powers-that-be are determined to legislate to control them more specifically. But I, for one, have seen advantages in human relating as a result of the new electronic media that I wasn’t expecting at all twenty years ago.

I communicate with our grown children almost every day through electronic means. They are spread around the country, from New Hampshire to Michigan and they have their own children—and some grandchildren. The first steps of these grand little darlings, the castle that one built, the family dinner at holidays, all are shared. Of course we wish they were with us in person, but they can’t be here every birthday, every Mother’s Day, every Thanksgiving. This lets us experience their families first hand so we are familiar day-to-day with their activities when they do visit. And they communicate as a sibling group discussing family events.

Linotype

Linotype machine

At Hawthorne Publishing, we keep in contact with our authors sometimes daily and definitely weekly and monthly via email. Daily concerns, ideas for events and book production—all can be quickly resolved with a speedy message. And dealing with the printer is a matter of one rapidly advancing technology after another. It is difficult to remember times in our publishing company’s history when electronic production wasn’t an everyday occurrence. But it is true there was an era when we did not create Word files to put out a book. In 1987, when Guild Press, the predecessor of our present Hawthorne Publishing, began publishing books, Alexander Graphics downtown in Indianapolis did the production files from typewriter pages we supplied. They were just beginning to use early computers, rare in individual hands. In the lobby of the company a huge linotype machine sat, only recently retired in a printing firm that had produced books and most forms of documents since the 1930s. I myself had been trained at the offices of the Butler University Collegian to set type by hand, creating headlines from a type chest with two cases, upper and lower.

Times from the late 1980s on changed rapidly, every few months bringing new means of book publishing. We entered our own first book into an electronic file, the young people’s Hoosier Farmboy in Lincoln’s Army: The Civil War Letters of John McClure in 1993. From then on it was constant upgrading with electronic means through Microsoft Word and then InDesign, which we use in updated versions today.

Most impressive is a consulting book we are in process with today: a collection of the sermons of David Owen, the well known Indiana Methodist preacher. The collection of his sermons needed to be compiled from parishioners who had saved typescripts through many decades. No electronic file existed. So the pre-press firm in Ohio took what they call “legacy documents” and utilized OCR (optical character recognition) to scan them into, eventually, workable Word documents. Much correcting had to happen on the earliest documents; the OCR process couldn’t recognize the odd old type.

I’m glad for the progress. I don’t understand it very well, but I welcome the benefits. I never did like to set that type in those little hand-held troughs with two cases! There had to be something better. And I’m glad there is

When You Don’t Know the Length of the Race: Sermons on Christian Quandaries and How to Move Beyond Them by David Owen is set for release in early April.

Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing.