Monday, May 12, 2008
News and Information
For many years, statistics have shown a steady decline in newspaper readership. In fact, there seems to be a decline in people reading anything. Now as most of my friends, whom I assume are the only people reading this blog, can attest, I have been television free for about 16 years. But I am the penultimate information junkie.
I read the following newspapers print edition every day: North County Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and San Diego Union. Hey with a job like mine, there's lots of free time! I also read these newspapers online, in a somewhat condensed version; the Washington Post and the New York Times. I also read TPM and the Huffington Post faithfully, as well as Dan Froomkin's column.
I am blessed to be a super fast reader, with fairly high comprehension. There are more online things I regularly check in on, like CNN and Google news, but these are my primary feeds. The San Jose Mercury is good for Tech stuff, the Economist and BBC for more highbrow fare.
The point of this post is a thought I have been knocking around. Newspaper readership is not dwindling necessarily because we have become a nation of illiterate morons, although that may also have a contributing effect. It is lower because we have outgrown the medium. To wit, we have outgrown the once a day, twenty four hour cycle for news. As technology has become so dazzling and immediate, we now must get our facts and infobits in real time or close to it. So consequently the news must be constantly updated.
I find myself checking out the news and e-mail on my blackberry (crackberry) at 2:30 in the morning when I have to pee. I am a total offender in the car but try not to text. I know that it is wrong! Find me a support group...
Now the facts are that print journalists tend to do a more thorough job than their perfectly coiffed, shiny toothed cathode cousins on television. Television is reduced to figures that can aggregate and explain what the raw information means to a tired, intellectually lazy populace. And with my limited viewing (trips to the inlaws and occasional hotel stays), I can say that it does a pretty piss poor job.
The days of my youth, with Huntley/Brinkley, Severaid and Cronkite are long gone. The new talking heads are pretty but vacuous. But I am getting too far off track...
I wonder if a giant hangover is approaching from this information overload? McLuhan would probably have a field day with this stuff. If I didn't get a phone call on the early morning of 9/11, I would have been in the dark. I remember the great political cartoonist Ron Cobb had a Free Press cartoon of an astronaut hanging on his tether and watching earth blow up, mouthing the words oh, shit...Or like the Japanese world war 2 straggler who pops up out of some Bornean jungle every decade or two. Maybe we would be better off doing the luddite thing? Many people I know are happy to get what I consider a very limited piece of the puzzle. Would that the unfortunate few like myself be so easily content.
We actually bought a television last week - comes tomorrow - a newfangled Sony XBR6. But I think that we will still hold out and not hook it up to a satellite (no cable in the boonies). Have a big enough information addiction already.
Love and have a great week!