Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Medium is the Message

Marshall McLuhan once said that the Medium is the Message. I tend to agree…but what does this say about the decline of journalism – of investigation – and the increase of our digital reliance? When it comes to the decline of journalism, of print, and ultimately of a text based civilization, I myself don't know if the 'short attention span' argument is valid - I got bored with the subject and moved on to something else! I wonder if such diversion seeking has its roots in humanism and, ultimately, the truly American phenomenon of coming to grasps with the loss of the ‘frontier’. Do we have short attention spans – or are we simply continuing the search for something new?

What I do believe in, though – and this does come back to the idea of a lost ‘frontier’, is the contemporary demand to be entertained in all things. And lets face it, print and text just don’t appeal to the masses like the glittering brightness of the ‘new frontier’ – technological whirly-gigs like TV and computer sandwiches (oops – sorry – my attention span just went again). When the sexy lips of a news anchor talks to me about a snorkeling dog, a skiing squirrel, or the smallest living person on record – by god I CARE. I care because the topic of little people and super agile rodents entertains me. (I feel that I must put a disclaimer here: I by no means intend to ridicule any person – my point is that TV, Internet, etc use politically incorrect and inconsiderate classifications to bump up viewer ratings – how many shows are on TLC about little people? Why do people watch them? Sure, maybe to understand the differences and similarities, but also to be entertained). My ultimate point is that entertainment is a colossal contributor to the downfall of print media. I wonder why we’re so surprised. This is, after all, the home of the drive-through, the 5 minute oil change, and the idyllic belief that there is always room for improvement. America deals with limits (and the lack thereof) – which came about when we understood our frontier had evaporated nearly as quickly as when we realized it existed in the first place.

This has ended up being a long-winded response to the the idea of journalistic demise. I can't help but feel hopeful that true investigation will endure as we come to grasp with what needs to be investigated. A new frontier of sorts is on the horizon, and text-based media must stake its claim.

1 comment:

  1. I also had an a-ha moment while reading this articles when reading about the correlation of entertainment and news. I always thought the Internet was to blame for the newspapers death -- but it actually started much earlier than that with the TV. TV created a new medium onto which we were delivered the news -- in picture, with drama!, and handsome reporters. It moved our attention away from the facts and towards a need to be entertained by information.
    How the heck do we expect, as librarians, to keep up with this trend? Is that why we have to have Wiis and movie nights in order to gain patronage? Plain ol' Information just isn't sexy anymore.

    PS Sorry for the late responses to this week -- yours truly had the stomach flu and my world stopped.