I know what you’re thinking: not another political column from the Scout.
Not to fear, my bleary-eyed and possibly hung over readers. The spinning, pompous world of politics is woven into this piece, but you’re not going to hear flippant remarks about our newest reality TV stars who moonlight as politicians. The real issue at hand is something bigger.
It’s obvious if we look around – we have some fantastic freedoms. Americans have access to all sects of information, but between the digital duvets of internet and television, we still have no idea what the hell is going on.
Now that’s scarier than most Halloween costumes.
We are infatuated with new technology – it’s convenient, shiny and as Kramer from that classic sitcom “Seinfeld” would say, it’s very refreshing! It’s a basic law of nature – new stuff is cool.
So why in heaven should we pick up an archaic mass of inky paper for news when you can conveniently take in hundreds of images like caffeine hits to the brain?
Sure, both media allow you to rapidly discard the information should you become bored, confused or outright enraged by what you learn. But it’s more time-consuming to put a magazine or newspaper down and search for a new rag than to switch to “New York Goes To Hollywood” between mouthfuls of Cool Ranch Doritos and Gatorade.
Keep in mind, TV is first and foremost intended to entertain (and by extension, get high ratings). You want to laugh, gasp or be otherwise emotionally stricken – TV is your best bet.
Secondly, it can work as a de-facto baby-sitter when the teenage girl in charge of a baby wants to gab to her boyfriend on the phone instead of making sure the kid keeps his finger out of the light socket. Informative probably comes last … but would you look at that resolution?! That’s 1080i, dawg.
Unless you’re a follower of Karl Marx, you can’t believe there is some attainable utopia in the future and every technological or social progression pushes us closer to such a paradise.
The simple truth is that TV is about as appropriate for news as for religion. And for the church-goers, is watching a sermon on TV the same as being inside the gargantuan building of St. Mark’s and sitting in the pews? Of course not, because churches have an air of sacredness few living rooms can replicate.
No matter what, how you get your information will be the determining factor in what kind of information you end up absorbing. Trust me, I’m a com major. The expression “the medium is the message,” courtesy of media theory egghead Marshall McLuhan, has been drilled into my head.
Don’t take it from me, though. I’m just giving due props to Neil Postman’s 1986 manifesto, “Amusing Ourselves To Death,” certainly the most entertaining textbook I’ve ever read. It’s also the most arresting non-fiction critique of our culture I’ve had the pleasure of being depressed by, and it’s only gotten more topical with time.
Everybody’s read the “c’mon and get informed” column before, but I bet you turned on CNN or Fox News and still felt confused. The vibrant intro music suggested news was coming, and good-looking anchors delivered the news in a smooth cadence, complete with quotes from experts.
But something just didn’t add up.
Sometimes the line between objective reporting and snarky commentary is blurred to a staggering degree. Other times, it’s just trivial matter presented as news. I turned on one news channel during Hurricane Ike, and the anchor announced a snake’s presence on the beach with the familiar headline “BREAKING NEWS.” Aren’t there more important things to cover?
This is serious, guys – I hope I don’t have to tell you that being informed is essential for democracy to function. Not all media is created equal, and simply put, the inherent biases of the television medium keep it from being truly informative. Only by reading print news can we be truly up to snuff on current events. If we keep looking in the ocean for squirrels, we’ll never catch any (although apparently we can snag a few snakes).
Alex Bahler is a senior public relations major from Woodridge. He is the Voice editor.
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