From the Blog

What Next?


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I find myself thinking this often as I read the news, or hear about what is going on in the world. “What next?” Not just our day to day events, but our consumption and reaction to news. And not “what next?” from a cranky old lady perspective, like what will these damn fool kids do next, and get off my lawn, and who in the hell is Lady Gaga?  But media consumption had morphed so much so quickly, I really wonder what the next change will be.

Most of the time, I read every headline that I find interesting. And it’s exclusively online. No TV, no radio, very rarely dead tree newspapers. My news is online and self selected. When I actually watch TV and catch the local news, it feels like passive spoon feeding to me. Not to sound paranoid (I’m not!) but it feels like “conditioning” to me. Local news seems obsessed with every random little act of violence and theft. It makes the world a scary place.

Reading the local news is not much better, but at least I can choose what I want to read. I can skip the sensational local violence headlines, because it’s really about a fraction of the population and it gets more attention than it deserves. But the difference between the dead tree local paper and the online local paper is that the paper news has some finality to it. It lands with a thud on your doorstep. It’s the final word, for that day. If you have a reaction to the news, you used to have to write a “letter to the editor.” Remember those? Remember it took effort? And it took some time, and you have to organize your thoughts, and form coherent sentences? Remember that?

Now, online news is “interactive.” And anyone with two fingers, a scant few brain cells, and a keyboard can comment on news. I’d like to say I have the will to avoid the cesspools that is the comments sections at the end of online news articles. But it’s really, really hard. It’s like seeing an accident on the highway. What makes us want to look? Isn’t it awful? Why are we so curious about it? This is my equivalent to reading trashy magazines or watching reality TV. I can’t resist the comments on news stories.

However, it’s incredibly bad for my mental health. I’ve talked here a couple times about going on political news vacations. I’m not always so sure we are evolving as a species after reading political news or comment sections. I’m pretty sure we are DEvolving. It won’t be long before we are crapping into our hands and throwing it at each other.

In the grand scheme of things, news comments are sort of a new development, just in the past five years or so. Five years is an eternity online, but it’s breakneck offline. How long did it take for news papers to crumble? 10 years? A lifetime online. But paper news has been around for HUNDREDS if not MILLIONS of years. What an inglorious, indecent end to an institution that helps make us a civilization.

Yes, you can say newspapers didn’t keep up. They caused their own demise. Now we have “New Media!” And it’s so much better! But um, no, it’s not. It’s quantity, now. Not quality. Veritable crap tons of news, that is mostly crap. Now any two fingered wackjob can spit bile and call opinion fact. And there are enough people out there to agree. Facts are now subjective. Anyone can now look at the truth, the Actual Truth, like, something that actually happened, and is factually true, and denounce in favor of something else.

So newspapers are dying, and the real journalism that is dying with them has yet to be replaced. I go to the New York Times if I want to feel like we are not devolving as a civilization. You know what? I’ll PAY for it. New York Times, hurry with your payment or subscription model. It’s WORTH something. Pay your journalists. What they do has value. I don’t want screaming, I want news. I want investigation. I’ll pay for quality. Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, I will pay for these. Please.

I know this has all been covered by many more knowledgeable than I am. I’m not a newspaper expert. But I read a lot of goddamned news. I am hoping that “what’s next” is a collective resurgence in appreciation for actual fact.

And Lady Gaga better stay the hell off my lawn if he or she knows what’s good for him or her.

Comments

  1. Yes! I love newspapers, but I’ve whittled it down to a select few that I really enjoy reading — the ones with good indepth feature stories; the ones that actually try to analyze situations and events rather than just splashing them in print. I love the physical, comfort of a hard print newspaper. It actually gives me a little thrill to hold it, expectantly, ready to see what’s inside. It also needs to be brand new. I refuse to read any part of a paper that someone else has already read.

  2. FlamingAtheist says

    Agreed. I am drawn to news site comments train-wreck style even though I know I’m reading bottom feeder content and all I’ll get out of it is either a headache, heart pains or just irritation. I’d swear that many of the multiple comments are sock puppets for people to come back and agree with themselves, the news sites are terrible about policing comments.
    I still get the Oregonian, will until the day it dies I suppose. My parents encouraged us to read the paper as a learning exercise to practice reading and not just the funnies. Had a morning and evening paper growing up, the metro area paper in the morning with big-city SoCal news, and the local rag. Something nice about a small town and it’s little paper.
    The small market papers are still doing OK, but I imagine they eventually will fall to the pressure of teh internets too.

  3. the 24-hour newscycle has killed print journalism. with the boob tube going 24/7 they become more and more strident, and more and more desperate to put something on the air that will catch attention. when you ply not-news as actual news you must imbibe it with some sense of urgency, or sensationalism. when the topic isn’t urgent, like most of the daily content, you have ot push the sensationalism. which is what our current newscycle is all about. even cnn has resorted to this. they take a 5 minute story, with 15 images, and put in the continuous loop; repeating the same shit, just bringing out the thesaurus to choose a new word, to say the same thing, but stretching it to 15 minutes or 20 minutes, because now they have 96 time slots to fill. it’s horrifying. I refuse to watch it. it is all about the bad, never the good. and if by some miracle, they find something good and decide to broadcast it, it is a 15 sec spot right before commercial. a commercial for a depression pill, or a sleep aid, or a diet pill. maddening.

  4. When it hits 10 PM, I race, RACE to shut off the TV. If I see the news, I go to bed assuming a flaming trimet bus loaded with prisoners will crash into my house while I sleep.

    You know, I can’t believe the online news sites even allow comments on their posts. Truly, it is a *rare* day when anything meaningful is said. I’ve no doubt someone has to spend a lot of time monitoring that junk.

  5. Is this a round-about way of saying you have a pair of matching iPads on your wedding registry?

    Also, I think Comment sections are going away. Only morons comment on blog posts—– d’oh.

  6. Are you the Heather that was the only voice of reason on the comments to the newstory regarding the graffiti in the Ashland dorms? Way to go, and keep it up if it was you. I am also addicted to reading the comments on newstories that interest me and can’t believe the drivel I have to page through.

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