Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Some perspective for the new year

To start off this year, I'm going against one of my instincts.  Starting now I'm publishing facts, stories, tidbits and other nuggets that I find on the web that interest me for one reason or another.  Of course by publishing I am simply referring to blogging, however, it is in the sense the same matter.  I'm making available for public consumption my opinions, perspectives and liabilities.  This of course has the inherent danger of repercussion, so I shall try to parse my words wisely.  Unfortunately amongst the onslaught of newsworthy pieces, time to edit and prepare works is ultimately my most lacking resource.  I shall have to learn to be articulate.

Some of this is driven in part because I long to refine my narrative voice and to find a place for it, even if no one is reading what I write.  Partly it is due to a sense that I feel that some of the most important news and information is being lost amongst the depth and breadth that is the internet.  I must find a way to consolidate.

Fittingly, the first document which has caught my eye this year is one which stands as an indictment of the current news industry.  This article is by John Hockenberry relates his experiences at Dateline NBC.

It starts off with a anecdote about the new news, and how technology can be used in the modern age to impact people and impart information not just on a factual level but also on a empathic level.  From this Mr Hockenberry launches into his diatribe about how the news industry, as represented by his personal experience with Dateline NBC, has forgotten the viewer.  He argues that it continues to drowned itself by trying to appeal to people's emotional core rather than engaging them actively or intellectually.

Having forsaken TV myself, I find myself having drawn the same conclusions.  These conclusions come not from personal experience working within the media, but rather having turned it away as not being a useful source of information anymore.  Too often I find myself dry and bored with the information that newscasters present.  Although it is the news, the vast amount of it is not important and relates very little information worth knowing.  And when a story does contain information worth relating, the information is usually so glib that other sources must then be sought out to find, verify and improve upon the newscast.

One point that Mr. Hockenberry makes is that the news industry has become so centered around the 'emotional core' of the viewer that it doesn't actually tell the story anymore.  He contrasts this with "[t]he straightforward questions and answers posed by [the] film [No End in Sight, by Charles Ferguson] are so rare in network news today that they seem like an exotic, innovative form of cinema, although they're techniques that belong to the Murrow era."  To be quite honest, I find it slightly telling that this sort of statement is also made in light of the success of the movie Good Night and Good Luck a few years back which characterized Murrow's style of journalism. 

On some level there is at least some audience which is grasping for real news to be shown again.  Surely some people are clamoring for the editors, the management, and the lobbyists to be taken out of the news and the facts presented.  Hockenberry's indictment stem from a lack of understanding of how the technologies surrounding the news have change.  I do agree with his points about technology, however I commend him most for his understanding that the new industry has lost it's sense of truth.  While I don't have a lifetime of experience with the news to work with, the one which is shown today seems to have lost it's sense of necessity.  It no longer presents the facts that are important for citizens to engage themselves in the world economy.  Rather it buries the truth somewhere amongst the debris of emotional ploys and consumption driven marketing.

Therefore, at least for myself, I am going to start cataloging the true news which I find.  I don't expect to make a difference or much of an impact.  However, I do expect to have a place in which I can find solace, examine facts under a magnifying lens, and perhaps even relate those to others in some way.  The news media may have lost it's way, and so I plan to find my own.  A path written by rumination, documentation, and genuine lust for perspective.

In this quest to more fully understand the world around me please bear with me.  I have not yet found my voice, and it will probably take me some time to do so.  Also, bear with the fact that by training I am a scientist.  I love to analyze, to take something and turn it on it's head.  While this piece may not have had a lot of analysis, expect that of later articles which I post.

"You Don't Understand Our Audience: What I learned about network television at Dateline NBC."
By John Hockenberry

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