on the life of news

Newspapers vs. Google vs. Newspapers… Back when I was a journalism student in college park (umd), Dr. Petrick told us someday we would get our newspapers over the tube and could even talk back to it. (!!!) The loss of a physical newspaper was expected. Good things about it, right upfront. No more black ink on your fingers, no more trees going down, no more gas used to deliver it.

Of course, it’s so much more than that. We lose editors. Editors who shape content, as in what gets on the frontpage (say, 911) and what gets buried (say, the holocaust through the early 1940’s). In full health, a big strapping paper was a big strapping news gathering machine, reporters stationed in far-flung places who knew the area they covered, the culture, and how it all might fit into the grand puzzle. But those types of correspondents have been drying up for at least the last decade, boiling down to the few hardboiled, the few embedded glams.

Worse, wire services have been bought up, shamelessly spun. UPI, now a Rev. Moonie operation. But et tu, AP? Faxes from the far right have been feeding Congress since the 90’s, posing and accepted as gospel. Rupert Murdoch’s Faux News now owns The Wall Street Journal. So the crud has been eating away at journalism in a big MRSA way. And, as science warns us, corporate pork farming is dangerous to humans.

Radio: deliberately dominated by the far right. Clearchannel bought up the majority of stations and the FCC changed the rules that protected us from such vultures. Who listens to it? Truck drivers, night watchmen… The ones who turn on FOX news when they get couch-wise with a brew.

And then we have THE INTERNET. Shiny! Ruled by their own thirst and hunger, individuals used it to sort through the dark wall of the Bush years. We got it right on 13 Myths because we could search and connect directly to sources. Some even connected to us. Sure, the Free Republic has its few, ready and eager to be part of the disinformed, willing to turn from truth and fair and good just so Jaysus might return to save them (and annihilate you)… But there’s also Talking Points Memo, which brought down Gonzo and helped George Allen bring his own veryself to ruin. Buzzflash has been tireless. Wateringholes formed from e-mailers who formed into e-lists… Because folks began checking things out.

Thank the gods, Google was there to search. But those searches, imho, have been harder to negotiate, less able to help penetrate the wall of late. Interested parties buy up search words, saturate and drown information. And — the biggest potential for suffocation — who chooses what stories go up on the google news page? That’s the power google is capable of having over news. The power of an editor.

Thus we become our own editor. And just at the time that the good old liberal arts education — which is what it takes to even begin to see your way to how things might connect; to begin to understand how much there might be involved in knowing, and in knowing that you can never begin to know all of it; the humility such knowing of your own limits which that necessary enlightenment might bring — our students have been taking business degrees. MBA’s. Pure tech…

I remember reading Reader’s Digest in a doc’s waiting room, a story about a insightful man in an ER who made a casual poetical comment — something from the Bard or maybe Moby Dick or Robbie Burns — to the tech who was taking his vitals. Next thing he knew, the psychiatric staff descended on him. Ignorant of his casual insightful aside, they thought he was suicidal.

Interesting turn of plot, all this. Who will write the history? Will any of it have existed at all?

— deborah conner

No comments:

Blog Archive