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Jul. 8 2009 - 10:36 am | 1 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Media’s Myopic Vision Could Be Its Downfall

myopic meh

Image by Stitch via Flickr

Media that fails to enlighten beyond the obvious, as witnessed by the  pervasive Michael Jackson and Sarah Palin coverage earlier this week, is constructing its own demise.

On the day of Jackson’s public memorial and Palin’s  post-resignation citing in waders near the Arctic Circle, consumers were hard-pressed to bump into details about much else on television and even on the Internet without initiating their own deeper dig. The rules of persona worship were in full force.

Some news organizations reached beyond the obvious to point out this has become the worst week for casualties in the US military Afghan surge attacks, thousands were killed and injured in China’s street protests, the Russian people never heard President Obama’s  remarks interpreted into their Mother tongue during his visit there,  and the economic recovery is unequivocally postponed until further notice.  But, generally speaking, who knew?

The challenge earlier this week was to get the collective media to focus on anything but the steady-drip about Jackson and Palin. Failing that was proof that more media in the virtual age is not necessarily better and that the rules for the easy way to attract eyeballs still prevail. Some astutely argue that the media’s narrow definition of what is news worthy of coverage on any given day is an exercise in narcissism that is contributing to the destruction of an informative press and an informed public.

Granted, some of this is a Catch-22: feeding consumers ‘ voracious appetite for personality-centric information and photos must be part of any media’s survival formula. But, how much responsibility is exercised by media outlets in all their diverse forms to broaden  and sensitize public awareness of significant domestic and world developments?

Who and what sets the bar for news coverage?

Balancing the public need and right to know,  taking a simple-minded or more sophisticated approach to reporting and analysis, and generally taking the low or the high road are topics as complex as they are controversial. Such salient points will continue to be debated and probed mostly on special interest blogs.

But we may well be approaching a critical point in time when mass awareness has a firm grip on mass response; when the torrent of news headlines, posts and pictures that pour over the general public fashions the overriding response of people to help themselves, their community and the world because they are in-tune with so much more than a myopic vision that pivots on personality rather than civic relevance.

The serious and complicated facets of the ongoing financial crisis will continue to adversely impact all consumers and businesses for the next decade, and is a complete antithesis to the recent life we have known.  The significant nuances of the situation are within our grasp depending upon how writers and editors choose to explore the topic.

Many believe that simple-minded media must not prevail if a country and its citizens are to survive this paralyzing crisis and once again thrive.  Leaving the general media to police itself is the only way in a country rooted in Freedom of Speech rights — but it doesn’t appear to be working  even as media has become more expansive, taking into account blogs and web sites pages deep.

While the Long tail of information and insight is rich and limitless, but does not serve the general public. Consumers are not conditioned to look much further than the first glance of headlines and lines of writing for their news, even though the Internet incredibly arms them to do otherwise.

So, are informed citizens choice or chance?

What do you think?


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  1. collapse expand

    Yes, mainstream mass media is currently obsessing over these inanities. But not all of them. What I think you have to do consistently (i.e. daily, if not more frequently) is look far beyond American borders, thinking and priorities.

    I listen to the BBC World News every morning for an hour. I read Canadian, French, English and British newspapers and websites as well. Just because the U.S. mainstream media show little imagination in deviating from the pack — which is why T/S might add value! — doesn’t mean there aren’t many more choices out there.

    But you have to pay attention and make an effort. If you’re not willing, whose fault is that? If you can read in any other languages (which few Americans can), you’ve got a much wider field of view. Yesterday’s Le Monde was pretty different from yesterday’s WSJ, NYT and NY Post, for example, in tone, content, story selection and play.

    You also can’t overlook the financial disincentives — a very old story in itself — of maintaining bureaus overseas where news is found on the ground around you, not just handed to you by flacks. Very few news or journalism organizations will spend that money anymore; do fewer sources of smart, reliable, insightful reporting equal a stupider audience?

  2. collapse expand

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree with your assessment and the importance of individuals paying attention and making the effort to broaden their news horizons. Sadly, too few do. Digital media’s instant, viral nature satisfies the general public’s inclination to skim the most simple and sensational news off the top. On the other hand, it also provides those willing to invest the time online with boundless information and insights on all matters. Free press. Free choice. This will be a critical ongoing conversation underscored by many poignant questions. Not the least of them will be commercial media’s role in spoon-feeding the public a bigger helping of relevant news.

  3. collapse expand

    Why do you think people are so lazy? Can we really blame social media (alone) for our audience becoming such slackers? Sad if true.

    Not to be rude, if all they really want is the sameoldsameold, who are are to care on their behalf? A few of us care, and we’ll dig deeper. Like democracy, if you really hate what you’ve got, you have to take action to change it.

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    I was multi-media before it was fashionable: a career business journalist covering entertainment, advertising and every kind of pre-digital media. My trademark was hard-to-get newsmaker interviews and breaking big stories until it became obvious industry leaders (like the rest of us) had more questions than answers. Shifting my byline column to big-picture analysis about developments and trends was a no-brainer in an era of headline streams and truncated thought without context. The only questions that matter now: What does it mean? What are the short and long-term implications? It is a perspective honed parenting four accomplished children, studying Arthurian literature (more relevant than it seems), and caring deeply about the transformation of all things media. Share your thoughts here on the extraordinary ways digital will continue reshaping our lives The Next Five Years or email me at mailto:dianemblog@gmail.com

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