Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Distracted From Our Lives

Today brings news that four major cities in Michigan are losing daily newspapers to insolvency, as Denver and Seattle have recently.

Many papers in the Gannett chain are said to be in trouble, including the Ithaca Journal.

Buying a newspaper is now old-fashioned as a system of communication. On-line is quicker and cheaper.

It is not necessarily better. The New York Times is a worthy site. So is the website of the "Democracy Now" broadcast by Amy Goodman.

There are not many others, especially considering the amount of time people spend on line. Much of what is offered is distraction - attractive, but empty.

Much media is also largely repetitive, with the 24/7 news cycle. The stories one hears on NPR are much the same in content and tone from one day to the next. Similarly, the guests and topics on even such commendable efforts as the Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann shows repeat from night to night.

Old-fashioned newspapers - the type that are fading away - dealt with local issues, of interest to a defined audience. Today, websites and other media have essentially limitless audiences, so the content is less specific - and so, ultimately, less useful to any particular place, or any community other than "virtual."

Maybe that's all we'll be left with soon, as we get less news about the real world, and more about created ones.

Sandra Day O'Connor made the point in the New York Times recently that most Americans cannot name the three branches of the American government, much less what they do. Probably a greater percentage has discussed, in the past week, the new format changes on Facebook.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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