The traditional news media is under assault.
News, as we’ve produced and consumed it, is breaking.
Technology has crippled the print side of news coverage where we used to go to dive deeply into a news story. (It should be noted that subscriptions to The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other ‘mainstream’ sources of journalism have surged in the past few weeks.)
At the same time, our attention span continues to shrink.
We consume “news” in headlines and sound bites. We want everything dumbed down into a sentence or two.
And for the first time in my life, we have a President who proudly proclaims he does not read, even on those issues critical to our national security.
He has asked those who provide him with the information he needs to make decisions to limit themselves to the fewest words possible, never to run longer than 1 page.
I can blame the broadcast news media for their focus on celebrities and shock but they — we — are in the ratings business.
It’s still a game about the number of ears and eyes, “how many” more important than “which ones.”
They wouldn’t cover stories about Kim Kardashian if we stopped watching them.
And there’s the reality of confirmation bias, which we all have, and partisan demagoguery in conservative Talk Radio, where “alternate facts” are part of the daily menu.
As a people, we are not looking at the same part of a gigantic world picture and seeing different things.
We’re no longer looking at the same picture itself.
Not Russia. Not ISIS. Not globalization or income inequality. Not climate change or gun violence.
Rather, NBC and CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Even FOX News is outraged.
This crisis of confidence is urgent, whether we acknowledge it or not, because our democracy depends upon a healthy and vibrant and independent press that will challenge and question power.
“The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of news writers who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.“
That’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, on Oct. 13, 1785.
Sounds like it could be from George Will, in yesterday’s column.
So its worth a couple of minutes to listen to these ideas that may help us save legitimate, credible news sources.