Tuesday, March 08, 2011

James Fallows throws in the towel?

It might seem so at first glance at Fallows' piece in The Atlantic: Learning to Love the (Shallow, Divisive, Unreliable) New Media

But read on and you'll find a very nuanced and intensely thoughtful piece on where this all may be going. Useful for reminding us that the gold old days were often not the good old days, and perhaps a bit too hopeful that something, something good has to come out of all this. But a worthy read overall.

A couple of my favorite passages:

Indeed, the relative stability of big media in the golden-age decades after World War II left a misleading impression of how tumultuous the news business had been through most of America’s past. The mid-1940s to the late 1970s was a time when newspapers were fat, national magazines were widely read, and TV news reports were sober and “responsible.” Like the idealized sitcoms of the same era—Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, Happy Days—they presented as normal and traditional what was in fact an exceptional moment in American existence....

If we accept that the media will probably become more and more market-minded, and that an imposed conscience in the form of legal requirements or traditional publishing norms will probably have less and less effect, what are the results we most fear? I think there are four:
that this will become an age of lies, idiocy, and a complete Babel of “truthiness,” in which no trusted arbiter can establish reality or facts;
that the media will fail to cover too much of what really matters, as they are drawn toward the sparkle of entertainment and away from the depressing realities of the statehouse, the African capital, the urban school system, the corporate office when corners are being cut;
that the forces already pulverizing American society into component granules will grow all the stronger, as people withdraw into their own separate information spheres;
and that our very ability to think, concentrate, and decide will deteriorate, as a media system optimized for attracting quick hits turns into a continual-distraction machine for society as a whole, making every individual and collective problem harder to assess and respond to.



Post a Comment

<< Home