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Posts Tagged ‘news industry’

Jim Jones and Our Stumbling Leader

I kind of feel bad for America’s children, kind of. You see, growing up in my house, the evening news was a given, five nights a week. Dinnertime was always 5:30 P.M. You had to be home, no questions asked. If you were late, you had better have a really good excuse. On school nights, dinner was followed by homework, while starting at 6:00 P.M. my father would commandeer the television to watch the local and national news. At the time, we had four options, and one was PBS in really poor quality.

Writing this makes me realize how much of my youth involved being forced to watch something I did not choose. I am the youngest of nine, which topped out at seven living in the house at the same time during my formative years. I could tell you anything that was happening on Dallas or Knots Landing. I knew who Luke and Laura were and understood when my mother and sisters would talk about them as if they were neighbors. However, when it came to real TV drama, you had to look no further than the news.

My first memories include the much-talked-about clumsiness of President Gerald Ford and the 900-plus people drinking the
“Kool-Aid” in Guyana. The latter, of course, being the image most burned into my brain. I believe at 9 years old, it both frightened and enthralled me. The idea that so many people could let one person direct them to take their own lives was weird and thankfully far away. I don’t recall anyone in my family trying to fully explain the breadth of the scene at the time, but I do remember knowing it was bad.

Throughout the years, my household changed for various reasons and, I should take this moment to point out, never included cable television (to be blamed on my father’s tight wallet). The routine of watching news continued for years to come. I’m sure I didn’t realize then how it was shaping my career path. I learned to be inquisitive. I was even voted biggest gossip in my high school, an honor I wear proudly now as a badge of my journalistic abilities but at the time completely mortified me.

Once I hit college and started hanging around those crazy folks who had CNN and Headline News, I was love-struck. I said, “That’s my calling,” and immediately changed my major from secondary education, never looking back. When they brought the first Gulf War into our living rooms—well, not mine but someone else’s—I was smitten.

I know it makes me sound somewhat old, but here’s why I worry about the kids today. There are so many choices on television. If you meet a family that doesn’t have cable, you’d give them the stink eye. There are few families that sit down and have dinner together and then turn on the TV the way we used to.

Every time a big event happens, e.g., September 11, those of us in the industry think, Well, this is going to change things for good. It wasn’t long afterward that we returned to doing stories about fallen starlets stumbling drunk out of limos with no knickers on and waterskiing squirrels. I blame the attention span brought on by the so-called MTV generation. If I can’t blame that, I have to blame parenting, and if I can’t blame that, I have to blame an oversaturation of “news” on cable TV. It makes me think that someone down the road is going to look back and say, “The first thing I remember seeing on the news is when Lindsay Lohan went to jail.”

My love-hate relationship with the Internet

Anonymity; and the Internet by Stian Eikeland. Member of the activist group Anonymous wearing a Guy Fawkes day mask using an old computer outside.

"Anonymity; and the Internet" by Stian Eikeland

I find technology fascinating but I am also terrified of it.  I didn’t even buy a cell phone until years after all my friends had them. The first two computers I ever owned were hand-me-downs, and I quickly killed both within six months. Basically, I had to ease myself into the idea of the “World Wide Web” and have come to discover, at this point in life, it controls almost everything I do. It may in fact eventually be the demise of my industry.

I would say that I first noticed the impact the Web was having on news when our newsroom stopped getting newspapers delivered. The edict was: Get it online—it’s free. I find this to be somewhat annoying in that we essentially may be contributing to the end of newspaper publishing. What I don’t believe is that the general public understands the effect of reading news online rather than picking up a newspaper or turning on the nightly news, be it local or national.

For the most part, we are the source for the news that everyone is reading online. If you go to any news-based website, you will find stories that are links to already-produced news from TV stations, radio stations and newspapers around the world. Meanwhile, the revenue streams for all three continue to dry up because people are no longer tuning in and are instead getting the info they want, customized to their needs, online. Most advertisers are following them. Do you see where this is going?

Let’s pretend that all the TV stations in America stop news operations and newspapers go away because there is no money coming in. Where, then, will most of the news you read online come from? You would be hard-pressed to find any source remaining that is not creating its own stories. Therefore, your news is no longer the journalism that we’ve all come to know, the kind that has been shaping this country for centuries and has been held to ethical standards that today’s Internet is not.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe the damage at this point is beyond repair. I don’t even believe that a disappearance of the concept of journalism will happen in my lifetime. Perhaps if the backers of news were to invest in doing it right online, we could all ride this wave together. I don’t see that happening until someone realizes the amount of money invested in new media needs to be the handled the way television was in its early days.

I will now e-mail this to someone who will post it to a website that I will be able to share with my friends via Facebook. Later I will look at it on my cell phone, which has become pretty much anything but a phone.

The Internet Is Not A Newspaper by Mark O'Brien

"The Internet Is Not A Newspaper" by Mark O'Brien