Newspapers (the printed kind) may be on the ropes, but they want you to know that they’re not dead yet.
I walked into the Cafe at Berkeley’s International House tonight before going to hear Robert F. Kennedy Jr. talk about the environment. I’m used to sports on the flat screens at most eateries, so was amused to notice that the ones here were showing newspaper front pages instead.
Adding to the intrigue, they were vertical… the first time I’d seen other people using portrait displays on content other than flight arrivals or weather (see my post on trying this myself at home).
I briefly wondered how they were doing it, but after a little googling concluded they must be pulling from The Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages project, a database of hundreds of daily front pages from around the world (also available as apps for iOS and Android). Though I couldn’t find anything about what software they’re using in this cafe, I did find this description of how they’re doing something similar at UC Santa Cruz:
“A script downloads the fixed image URLs, from Newseum, which updates the image URLs, daily. The script may copy the images to a folder on the computer driving each display (or perhaps a server folder)… hardware-wise, the News Readers are simply Mac Minis connected to displays. The newspaper front pages that are displayed through the Classic Mac screensaver (a simple slideshow) where the source is set as a folder containing the front pages in jpg format. The computer is setup to turn on and shutdown at 7:30 AM and 3 AM respectively and reboot automatically during a power outage, auto login is enabled, and neither the computer nor the display ever sleep. Finally the screensaver is setup to start >20 min to allow time for the download and processing of the front pages. Software-wise, an application called Newspaper is launched automatically at startup and controls the download and processing of the front pages.”
You’d think that Newseum could make this a little easier if they wanted to. Especially if they want to show that print newspapers are alive and well, to people who can’t make it to Washington D.C. Of course, this may just be a futile nostalgic exercise.
Below are some more of the front pages that rotated through while I was waiting for my tea.
As for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – he was great telling stories about visiting his uncle JFK in the White House as a kid, or relating environmental war stories from the 1970s (e.g. taking Hudson River polluters to court and winning big). For thousands of years, he said, private polluters of public resources have been punished and ostracized – only in the 20th century did society start letting them get away with it.
However, Kennedy’s message got a little muddy when he claimed that capitalism is the answer – that all you need to do is force businesses to pay the costs of their own pollution, and they’ll stop doing it. And he had relatively little original to add about global warming, other than that solar and wind are the answer. Oh, well.