Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mirror or Window

I make my living in the periphery of the Blue Smoke and Mirrors Machine-at one time I was in broadcast news but discovered the truth was often too situational to be of any lasting value and today's hero was this afternoon's villain.

I decided not only that discretion was the better part of valor but that it also paid better. And as Dylan observed over half a century ago money doesn't talk, it swears. Since I've been told I have a colorful vocabulary, I feel pretty much at home with Benjamins in my wallet and normal hours. Principles are over-rated.

But, like you, I can't be everywhere so I rely on news operations to tell me what they know and I then come to conclusions about what I want to know and how important it is to me. As the years have gone by, however, the pickings have gotten slimmer, Jim, to the point of vanishing before our eyes and ears.

The Pew Research Center released earlier this week its State of the News Media 2013, its annual look at radio, television and newspaper news operations. Again this year, it's expanded its scale and scope to also reflect and ruminate on the role and function of social media platforms in our informational jambalaya.

Read it at your leisure, or ignore it at your  peril. I find it disquieting like so much else we moderns hath wrought. I grow more concerned by the day at how lazy we customers are about where we shop for 'news.' If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, some of us want to know how much a quack it costs.

We cannot or do not tell the difference anymore between talking heads and field reporters and those in the news biz work double-time to make one look and sound like the other. Far too many of us see Bill O'Reilly and/or Rachel Maddow as reporters when they're nothing more than talking heads and if I have to waste a word explaining the difference, you won't get it so I won't bother.

We all have neighbors who, when they read the local newspaper, cannot distinguish between a letter to the editor, an editorial or a news story. Yep, they can't tell one from the other and away we go down the rabbit hole.

And not helping is that news is now a business like it never was at anytime since Joshua went the battle of Jericho, 'and we'll be right back with that report on how the walls came tumbling down after this commercial for Sak-Rete.' What would Fred Friendly and Edward R. Murrow make of the dog's breakfast we have created? They'd probably join Newton Minnow in describing it and we'd ignore the lot of them.

Maybe the most terrifying aspect and I feel that way because it was supposed to be liberating, is the emergence of "new media" a/k/a "social media" or what I call Twitter Twits. The appeal for me as a reader and writer is the platforms are unfiltered but that also means I have an obligation to make sure I clearly tell you what is fact and what is my opinion. I cannot allow you for one moment to lose sight of the importance that you are reading a truth, not the truth, but even that is too much because it's my truth.

When a story from the Galvanize All Babies at Birth Guild and the Associated Press are treated by us, the netizen visitors, as worth exactly the same, it may be too late. And then we wonder how arrive at thoughtless and venal decisions (because we chose to).

It's the weekend and maybe things aren't so frantic. Perhaps after you've finished reading the morning paper (usually takes what? 15 minutes if you do the crossword?) or watch the Happy Talk News on the tube, broadcast or cable (all the anchors really do sort of look the same) you'll have the chance to have a good long read, if you can still rememeber how to do that because right up with listening to one another reading has become a lost art.

I'd feel sorry for us but we've created this world in our image and likeness. We wanted fast food for fast times-check. How about news by people who hate to research and report it for people who hate to receive it?  Double check. That order was to go, right? Coming right up.
-bill kenny


Mike Byrnes said...


I agree entirely.

Your (righty) friend,


dweeb said...

I, too, am a righty. Hemisphere of the brain, that's what we're talking about, correct? I almost typed "right" and got us started all over again!