Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ending Mindlessness In The Traditional Media

The real elitists in American politics are the pundits and the news media who think that flag pins, “likability”, and the color of one’s skin or one’s gender are the most important issues in the campaign for the presidency of the most powerful country in the world. With an economy slipping into recession, no end in sight for two of the longest wars in U.S. history, an administration that has endorsed torture, and a looming environmental crisis, the nation’s major news sources have no shortage of serious issues to report on. Instead, we get an endless stream of distractions and trivialities.

Adding insult to injury, the nation’s opinion pages routinely contain lectures on what it really means to understand rural America—these from blowhards living in the posh D.C. suburbs who skip from one gala dinner to the next.

This has to stop. The stakes are simply too high.

The only way it will is if we the people demand something different. Some of us are already doing this by switching to new media sources, which is one reason why newspaper circulation and network news audiences are steadily declining. We also need to speak up loud and clear when the mainstream media stoop to new lows, as ABC did with its mindless Obama-Clinton “debate”. And of course we can continue to build alternative sources, as this website and tons of others has attempted to do.

More than anything, what has exposed the mediocrity of the traditional media is the plethora of superior perspectives put forth on the web by academics, thinkers, and concerned citizens. Many of the pieces that I read on blogs, for which the writers are generally unpaid, are better than what people are earning six-figure salaries to produce.

But let us not pretend that alternative media can do it alone. The large resources of the major newspapers and networks enable them to do the kind of original reporting that blogs and other independent sources can’t possibly match. Only National Public Radio, probably the best overall source of news, can begin to compete, and even its resources are tiny by comparison.

It is possible to envision a future in which the traditional media forego mindlessness and return to in-depth coverage of serious issues and a focus on real priorities. Combine this with continued scrutiny by blogs, and the more varied commentary that comes with them, and America could easily become the most informed nation in the world. Given the disproportionate power that we wield on the international stage, we should aim for no less.

Take-home point: Make your voices heard. Whenever you hear or read a particularly mindless story, give the media a call or send an email expressing your discontent. And when they run a great story, let them know as well.

P.S. As if on cue, an entire issue of mindlessness at Newsweek. Let the editors know what you think at: Editors

Jason Scorse

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