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