Saturday, June 11, 2011

Distant Replay of Civil War

Years (OK, decades) ago, I wrote a column in the Ouachita Citizen I called "Distant Replay." Since we were a twice a week local newspaper, it was hard to be current with the news on high school football -- we came out on Wednesdays, a long time after everyone knew the scores from the local Gannett daily. So I decided as the sports editor that with the passion for the local teams -- and my own love of reaching microfilm and old papers -- I would do a weekly recap of one, five, 10 and 25 years ago this week. It was also a shameless attempt to get names of the past legends into the paper and get people to want to see themselves and old friends in print again -- selling subscriptions and single copies.

Today, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Pause while you let that whiplash catch up. In prepping remarks for the annual Arkansas teacher's seminar on the Civil War, I have discovered one of the most brilliant mash-ups of distant replay, history and contemporary digital media: the Washington Post's "coverage" of the war.

Through multiple Twitter feeds, the WaPo is creating a real-time stream of quotes, facts, information and "coverage" of the war. There are straight history facts, there is the Robert E. Lee feed giving thoughts and concerns of the war from the CSA's master strategist. The respective presidents weigh in daily as do correspondent feeds from each side (wpUnion and wpConfederacy).

The best single line of what WaPo is doing comes from the description line of several of the feeds:

The Post is tweeting the Civil War, in the words of the people who lived it.

There is a feed just for the media of the 1860s and one written by modern day media who look back on the "news" of each day (CivilWarWP) in a daily blog. Since it is a little in my historical area, was quite interested in the coverage of the Union decision to deploy an aeronautical corps of balloon observers to the battle front today.

You can follow individuals, or the composite list created by the Washington Post. I'm promoting this heavily next Thursday as both a resource for the teachers and an excellent example of what they can do to make the war come alive for their students -- or the history of their town, county, state, subject area.

Now if I can just find all those old Distant Replay research files and get them digitized . . .

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