It seems much of the news media these days takes a YouTube approach. Society is not better informed as a result.
Just look at the latest soap operas playing themselves out in mainstream media headlines and the blogosphere. Sure millions of people are curious about things like: Did singing diva Beyonce fake it during her presidential inauguration rendition of the Spar Mangled Banner? Did Notre Dame Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o lie about the hoax regarding an undead non-existent girlfriend? Who will join the judging cast for American Idol next season?
But just because people want to discuss a silly topic doesn’t mean it is news. Actually, it is a good question to explore:
What really is news?
· It should be something that is important to many, not a few
· It may be complex and deep – and not surface simple
· Not merely rehashing a story, but digging for facts and answers
· The story exposes a public danger
· It initiates a dialogue on an issue that impacts a lot of people
· It showcases a risk involving health, wealth, security, rights, etc.
· It uncovers a major crime, scientific discovery, medical breakthrough, or major social injustice.
But the media seems to go by a different standard:
· Will it sell papers or get eyeballs and listeners to tune in?
· Can we get advertisers to pay up as a result of the media coverage?
· Does it have sex appeal?
· Is a celebrity, start athlete, politician, or someone with a big social media following involved?
· Is it something that can be serialized – and not done within a day?
· Will it spark a dialogue around the water cooler?
· Does it cost little to nothing to cover this story?
The decline of the news media has been an ongoing thing for many, many decades. It didn’t happen overnight, though it seems the decline has accelerated this past decade. There have been media shortcomings for all of time. The media has suffered from cases of corruption, bias, business conflicts, politics, ego, and a lack of resources, These things play a major role in what gets covered and how it is reported.
Each medium: radio, TV, print, and online – arrived at different times to change how the media game is played. Pamphleteers changed things centuries ago. Then came newspapers, magazines, radio, television, cable TV, Web sites, bloggers, and social media networks. Each type of media brings pros and cons but together the media has conspired to make us less informed, less focused on the news.
If I pine for an era when media reached a low and a high, it is probably around 1989-1991. On the low was the peak of daytime talk sleaze, from the seemingly elevated Oprah and Donahue, down to Geraldo Rivera, Sonja Live, Maury Povich, Montel Williams, Jerry Springer, and all the way down to my favorite: Morton Downey Jr. But the established media was smoking. Evening news anchors held respect and notoriety. No one can name today’s anchors. Fox News didn’t yet bring its polarizing style of “reporting” to the arena. CNN was a real news source, not just featuring hack personalities. In fact, Larry King, whom we’d take over Piers in a heartbeat, was criticized for being “too soft.” The morning shows like Today interviewed presidents and heads of state and not yesterday’s reality show loser. News magazine shows were plentiful and 60 Minutes was a giant. Newspapers had more readers. Weekly magazines – Time, Newsweek and US News & World Report were influential. Radio was listened to and not downloaded music off an iPod. Howard Stern and Do Imus were fresh and creative voices in the shock jock world. And the Internet was just something known about by the military. Ah, if only I could turn back time.
There were fewer distractions and less competition for people’s mindshare and it was better because society could unite and focus on certain issues, even if people disagreed on how to resolve these issues.
We used to complain about the trashy tabloids and paparazzi of National Enquirer, Globe, National Examiner, and Star. Now we complain that cable TV hawks opinions by professional commentators instead of the actual reporting of news or the issues-focused analysis by a variety of qualified guests. Heck, some people prefer to get their news from comedy shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. We find spoofs more interesting than the genuine thing.
The truth is there was no golden age for the news media, not even 1990. Fewer news outlets or delays in getting the news had its drawbacks back then and today being overwhelmed with so much media, but one that offers little substance and filtering is not serving us well either. But people want to tune it to established major media that is trustworthy, competent, and balanced. Right now we have a free-for-all where no one is leading and everyone is following.
The media is always evolving, and right now it is devolving. But I am hopeful that things will improve. Why? Because they need to, otherwise the dumbing down of America will reach a critical point of no return. We are at Defcon 2 on a media scale of dumbness. Nuclear war won’t destroy us – we will just do it from within the borders of our homes and smartphones.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©