A point in every direction

Saw Good Night and Good Luck recently. Liked it a lot in that kind of everything is different, everything is the same kind of way. One of the big differences that the movie reminded me of was that when there were fewer media outlets, each one had huge power. What these outlets said really mattered. People still talk about how much affect Cronkite had on the Vietnam war, but in 6 months maybe no one will even remember Aaron Brown.

While the impact of (printed) newspapers is continually declining, we now have more television channels that you can shake a remote at and a seemingly infinite array of perspectives on the web. What I have been wondering though is whether or not more is really much of an improvement. Having a diversity of views seems better than having 1 state run media outlet control the story. But as the number of media outlets (radio, TV, Weblog, etc) grow and grow the individual voices tend to become more and more entwined with some specific ideology that they are trying to sell. That’s not really progress, that’s just Pravda. Sure you get to choose the ideology you want coloring your news, unless your ideology is truth. As with all things in America, we get what we pay for and the news people want to buy is the news that agrees with what they think.

I’m not saying we should have only 1 (or 3) national media outlets, but if we did then at least what they said would matter. People might actually care about it and talk about it. Instead we have a group of people who listen to crap like Rush and another group listening to crap like Air America who don’t talk to each other. Each group feels like the stuff that the other listens to is biased propaganda that’s destroying the country. And they are both right.






2 responses to “A point in every direction”

  1. Pokie Avatar

    The problem with your argument is that it assumes that the press, as you imagine it, is unbiased and solely in search of the truth. This is not true now, nor has it ever been true. Not of the press nor of any institution run by human beings.

    An example from the past week is the discovery of a box of photo negatives from the Montgomery, AL newspaper documenting the civil rights movement. The pictures were never shown, and were hidden (and thought lost or forgotten) as they might “embarass” the white population. Every news organization makes editorial choices: what will be covered, how it will be covered, who will cover it. As philosophers and literary theorists would say, we can not leave our biases at the door, either as individuals or as institutions.

    I think it is dimissive and incorrect to suggest that only those who proclaim neutrality can be trusted, or that those who make no effort to conceal theirs are not equally in search of the “truth” or necessarily wrong. The advantage in the past has been the large resources that papers and tv could use to conduct actual reporting, but I see relatively little of that on tv these days, and less and less in many papers and magazines (with exceptions), and more being done by individuals. The biggest difference is that successful individuals/small teams tend to focus on a narrow niche (a story or an issue, like social security reform, the NSA spying scandal, corruption of a particular official, etc.), and can’t go after diverse stories or, to some extent, stories overseas.

  2. bricetebbs Avatar

    I dont think I have any illusions about the press being about truth.

    My point was trying to be that by having a zillion voices none of them really matter since in the limit each person only listens to thier own. That might sound great in some ideal sense of the individual but its not great when it comes to community.

    If we are going to be a country we have to have a common experience which is more significant than American Idol.

    Alot of people I read say that the future is moving away from the Nation state and this is just a symptom of that. But that’s probably a topic for another post.