Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Admiral Byrd and Other Bi-Polar Delights

Trolling the internet, fell across an article in the Christian Science Monitor on the death and dearth of print and paper newspapers that I hope you'll agree is worth a moment or two of your time. Tell Angry Birds to wait and if you're playing Words with Friends, tell them it's actually Scrabble and has been around in one form or another since Noah disembarked from the Ark.

I like the article and have no argument with its major premises except it doesn't go far and wide enough with too narrow a focus. When I was a wee slip of a lad and dinosaurs roamed the earth, all we had was over the air broadcasters, radio and television. Every night at six-thirty on the East Coast we had national seances as families gathered around the electric fire and watched The News, capitalization is deliberate.

We didn't necessarily know but did sense that there were about twenty-two minutes of important stuff going on in the world and it took about a half hour to get through it every night. Both that news and the local cast on usually just before it were generalist in approach. You were as likely to see a story about a cat in a tree as were a report on the war in Vietnam. Reporters and editors struggled with what they knew and getting it to fit in ninety seconds-reducing every story to essentials and telling it in shorthand

For a newspaper, we had NO national brands-every major urban center had morning dailies and in many cases evening ones. Those were the first ones killed by evening TV news. But daily newspapers, too, took a generalist approach-an all you could eat buffet style offering information. It was published in sections because we love organization even as we hate the hassle of organizing but the first section was our world all the way down to goings-on on our street. Maybe you didn't get enough on the underwater armadillo wrestling competition in the Fiji Islands over the weekend-cheer up, pilgrim, someday we'll have the technology to deliver just that information to your house 24/7.
  
And that's where we are now-all of us, or nearly, watch/read our news ala carte. I get weather from one source, sports from another and additional proof that the President of the USA is Satan incarnate from a third. I'm almost kidding but not. Because we can refine and define our news sources to confirm our world views and its incumbent prejudices, we end up not knowing what we don't know, with little to no exposure to new ideas and new information. Instead of exploiting the technology to build bridges to the world we've constructed walls to shut it out.

So short-sighted canards like 'in this election you get free stuff or you get freedom' don't disappear in the noise of general news because that empty-headed prattler is narrow casting to a captive audience who regards generalist news channels as 'lame stream' in much the same manner as disciples (too much?) of Al Sharpton (nice weight loss, Rev, but why did you quit before you disappeared entirely?) see those with whom they disagree as crypto fascists. Instead the Your-Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame-Dress-up Doll from Wasilla, Alaska, echoes like like a bee-bee rolling around in a box car until she's all you can hear.

The CSM article suggests that rather than wondering if America is a different nation now than it was a generation ago, perhaps we should ask why it took us so long to notice we are different citizens engaged in a different manner in our communities and in our nation than our parents and their parents before them.There are no easy answers especially since the number of forums to have this conversation, daily newspapers across the country, continue to darken and disappear.

That all our Norman Rockwell moments are fated to become faded picture postcards of who we were until the last memory of those times is gone and some future generation stares into the shoe box of snapshots with no idea what all those pictures are supposed to be. Leaving us to conclude people take pictures of each other just to prove that they really existed. Living is an entirely different concept.
-bill kenny  

No comments: