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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Big Bird and the death of journalism

I once read that the BBC worked long and hard to delay the introduction of “Sesame Street” on British Television because the program taught children that all you need to know you can learn in one or two minutes bites. The Sesame Street generation now includes most everyone under 40.

So, when it comes to laying blame for decreased attention span, a tendency to grab at the short and simple explanation for things, the way so many people grab onto sound bites or easy answers as true without questioning the source or the depth of the statement (Obama is a Muslim, Obama is not American, actors are not informed, celebrities should not be allowed to voice opinions, Global Warming is a myth and so on…), the only people we have to blame are ourselves, those in or who consume media.

We wanted short, fast, six minutes ratings increment driven news or entertainment. We wanted fast paced video and audio. We bought into anything worth saying can be said in 14 words or less, or thirty seconds or less, or on a simple billboard.

CNN shifted from national international news gathering and long form reporting organization to increased personality and bias, hot spot rhetoric and ratings driven after FOX replace them in the ratings by presenting opinion and feel good reinforcement of one point of view, with shouting heads instead of dedicated news resources and balance reporting. CNBC followed, gaining ratings with the opposite political presentation to FOX. Ratings, fast paced headline coverage, personality news are all the result of our shift from long-term thinkers to instant gratification and short attention spans. Broadcast news has been “the bubble headed blond” smiling and doing small talk for years. Gone are Cronkite, Brokaw, Murrow or any attempt at balance and presentation to fit the seriousness of what is being presented.

Americans do not feel a need for a better journalism than they have. This was written in response to another Open Salon posting and was not penned by me.

Because it is not true, but a generalization with mixed values revealing the view of the common man from an elite perspective. By Americans do we mean the masses? If so, realize that serious reporting has always appealed to the minority and the decision makers. Newspapers dying out has little to do with content and more to do with economics of publishing and the ability of the comic readers, the sports box score fanatic, the Wall Street ticker-tape watcher to get real time information over other media. Except for those who have slashed reporters instead of fat, newspapers still offer long form and insightful journalism that cannot be found in other areas, at least not easily or for the passive mass audience.

Of course economics includes bad management, not shifting quickly enough to a multi-media integration of revenue and resources, and not keeping their fingers on the actual daily habits of time use by the general population they relied on to attract advertisers, sell subscriptions and maintain their reputations.

As a teacher I have to disagree on the low view of Americans. Knowledge, learning and education have shifted from the Eastern Elite definition held so dear by so many who think they represent business and political norms. Americans are learning more, reading more and thinking more than ever before. The difference is it may not be balanced, as broad in focus or as in depth as in the past. Fast, quick form Internet and sound bite media have taken their toll on our attention span.

People are basically good. People may be learning more than ever before through experience, experimentation, and object lessons as they seek more than book or traditional knowledge. We are not dumbing down, but the evolution from long form attention spans to “the fast and furious” will change and is changing how we think, our perceptions of reality and our ability to communicate on complex levels.

What if anything can be done?

Hats off the New York Times for resisting the trend to cut reporting and editorial staff during hard times, and to keep printing national and international daily editions.

So this entry rants, wanders and touches on probably too many areas. I would like response, elaboration and discussion in any direction these thoughts may lead.

Thank you in advance.


March, 12, 2009 first posted, repost 1/20/10


Unknown said...

It's the American way, quick and easy... Everyone wants it now, with no long term obligation or hard work put into anything. I think this quick fix is not just in learning but especially in health care . Want to loose weight, there's a pill or a procedure, no need to restrict calories or work hard at the gym... Got a pain or discomfort, take a pill... And doctor's will readily prescribe them!! I believe this is the reason we appreciate things so much less than previous generations, we did not have to work hard to earn it therefore we do not hold as much value for it

Maura Goldberg said...

I like NPR and public TV information because more details are provided. The topics dig deeper, the content well balanced and therefore, more informative. Agreed, our society is fast paced & we get snippets of more information but not enough to get the whole story - just enough for individuals to pursue interesting topics further. In our multi tasking society, maybe all we can handle is a little or this & that at one time & I agree we are gaining knowledge but being programmed that way.
Maura Goldberg COM 101-6002

Anonymous said...

There is no value in anything today. The quickest fastest way is always the best way in society today. Everything is massed produced, and done for us. Why go to a library, when almost every home in america has at least one computer? ( a lot of households have a lap top, iPad, iPhone, e.t.c as well as a computer). Or why make dinner when i can pay a restaurant to do it for me, or even better, drive through McDonalds and have it take ten minutes tops. ITs society today. Were technology driven, and look for an easy out. People see it as, "Why do it myself, I'm sure a machine can do it or me".

-Camille Sunseri

Anonymous said...

While I agree that most of society's misinformation may be a result of distilled or condensed sound bites. I also feel that waiting for tomorrow's morning edition to report on then often times irrevelent information on a constantly evolving event is inefficient at best.

Jill Pentkowski

Anonymous said...

FYI: check out the Pew Internet Trust and you will find that one third of Americans do not have computers at home, and most that do have older or cheaper slow computers and no high speed Internet access. Do not assume that everyone lives like you do or is like you.

Anonymous said...

I agree that humans are constantly living their lives by convenience and speed. Why read the newspaper, when there is a cell phone already in the palm of my hand, and a computer or television right infront of my eyes (which also leads to another topic of poor vision in most people now)? Many people do not want to take the time to read or listen to credible resources because it takes too long or it is just "too hard" to understand. Unfortunately, you are right when you say that this new way of learning is shaping the way we think and interact with others.

Angelina Gomez

Anonymous said...

Is it Sesame Street? Or is this our way of life and we were heading into that direction. I am too old to have watch Sesame Street or Big Bird, but we I had to learn to learn on the fly. I wake up and catch the news of the day. Am I watching the right news cast? I have to go on the internet to get more news. We are living on the seat of our pants. Some news broadcast go on and on about specific events. So we turn it off. Mixed feelings about this, I can go on and on...

A Falconetti
Comm 101
HN 4049

Anonymous said...

While convenience is becoming ever more prevalent, I think that this is the key focus point: "We are not dumbing down, but the evolution from long form attention spans to “the fast and furious"..."

In todays world we are in a state of information overload. There is so much data so readily available it becomes difficult to process and form complex communication without being shiny balled onto other data.

Daily we consume more and more data, and I use the word data specifically, as it's just that, Data, it's RAW, it means nothing.

Data is not information or understanding, it does not allow you to form a complex thought or communicate at a complex level.

Data must turn into information, then into knowledge, only then can you understand and attempt to communicate at a complex level as you are able to make new knowledge from previously held knowledge.

Ryan Clift
Com 101-4049