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More Is Less

March 22nd, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the early days of journalism, the ability of a news item to reach the front pages of a journal likely meant that, on the whole, the story had some verifiable truth.  The entire purpose of newspapers was to convey… news.

Competition was quite intense for the mantle of the fastest and most accurate news source and reporters were always after the big scoop that would make their careers.  How quaint such times were since such values and markets have changed dramatically over the past half century.

As we know, the news business has now merged inextricably with the entertainment business and platforms have morphed from the  pulp print press, to TV, video and social networks.  The ‘news’ these days is as much entertainment as it is news. The notion of waiting for the 6 o’clock news to find out what’s happening in the world is as quaint as waiting until the evening to call long distance because rates are cheaper.

Having a limited time to post significant news events to the public meant that news outlets had to condense as much meaningful news as possible into the small window of people’s rapt attention.  Ted Turner changed this entirely by introducing CNN in 1980.  From then on, news did not wait for the 6pm broadcast, it was available 24 hours a day.  Of course we know what’s happened since then.  Numerous other competitors emerged and now technology has given us real time news on independent video and social platforms.  Nowadays, news outlets often source these alternate platforms for their own content.

But as we know, there is only so much relevant news at any given time.  Sure, there are innumerate dog bites man stories, but on the whole, the big picture stories that really affect us do not require a 24 hour barrage of reportage.   So instead, to fill the gap between updates of genuine events, all platforms have utilized what can only be described as filler stories.  To fill the empty times available, all manner of opinion givers, fluff pieces and intellectual detritus are offered in order to try to attract eyeballs and listeners.  We are treated to the utterances of all kinds of nutters as networks try to fill their precious airtimes.

On any given day, on any given platform, we can find all manner of stupidity that would never have seen the light of day in more sane times.  As an example, recently there was a story from the LA Times reporting that white people polluted the air of minorities while driving through their neighborhoods on the way to work.  In another piece of brilliance, a view was expressed on TV that 2 plus 2 equaling 4 was a racist construct.  This kind of detritus actually alienates people from paying attention to any kind of news.  They lump all news from these sources as nonsensical fluff. It’s as if the National Enquirer held editorial influence over all journalism.  As an aside, the Enquirer can’t even be considered a tabloid anymore…they actually report news.

The result is that ‘mainstream’ news providers become less and less influential or relevant while at the same time, targeted topic sites attract viewers.   Information and news has become increasingly balkanized so that people can choose what kind of information they want to consume as they do for specialized topic TV channels.  Many have found refuge in outlets containing only stories about NFL football, or golf or sewing or the latest Kardashian adventure.  In doing so, they automatically tune out all other irrelevant news and unwittingly become ignorant of real world issues.

While this is all well and good, this could well create populations that are ignorant of the events that affect their lives because their information focus is so narrow.  There was a segment on the old Tonight Show with Jay Leno called Jaywalking in which random people on the streets were asked simple questions about common knowledge things.  Often, the respondents, notably college students, failed miserably and comically to have any knowledge of real world events or commonly known facts.   While many of us were amused by the ignorance of such people, I’m not sure it wasn’t a genuine sampling of the general population.  I’m reminded of the classic computer programming maxim: GIGO, which means, garbage in, garbage out.

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