If this is the only blog you read and you find little reason to head over to ESPN.com these days (like Aaron Gleeman), you might not have heard about the little discussion Bill Simmons & Chuck Klosterman had the other day. The two wrote a “column” on a sports centered site that happens to discuss everything but sports. In between talking about (I kid you not) the movie Face Off and which was Pearl Jam’s greatest album, they take time out to bash blogs and the young generation.
Klosterman: …What will be interesting about the coming generation of people (at least if you’re a writer) is that they will have a twisted concept of what the word “media” is supposed to mean. A term you hear people use a lot these days is “New Media,” which really just means, “Electronic Media, Minus the Actual Reporting.” This is what the Internet is, mostly. I constantly see all these media blogs that just link to conventional “Old Media” articles and pretend to comment upon them, but they add no information and no ideas. They just write, “Oh, look at this terribly archaic New York Times story. Isn’t it pathetic?” But that sentiment is being expressed by someone who’s never done an interview and has no tangible relationship to journalism. It all seems kind of uncreative…But the net result is that all people are starting to assume that the media is inherently useless and that there is absolutely no difference between news and entertainment. This will make the coming generation even more cynical than the current one, which is mostly bad (but not necessarily tragic). I think this is why so many teenagers are obsessed with things like myspace.com: They have lost interest in the world at large, so they’ve decided to just build an interior culture where they are the sole focus. They can live without the world.
What Klosterman doesn’t understand is that it’s not the “New Media” that creates its own world, but rather it’s the “Old Media”. Every summer there seems to be a slow news week that is filled by reports of shark attacks which is blown out of proportion. Each year around 70-100 people world wide are bitten by sharks, with only about 5-15 of them being fatal. Last year in America, 2 people were killed by sharks and there were 30 total attacks. Simply put, you’re 20 times more likely to end up like the bishop in CaddyShack than the skiny dipper in Jaws.
But by watching the news you would never get that impression. Everytime a shark attack report comes on I listen intently for one of those announcers to state some pertinent facts. I wait for someone to say that shark attacks are extremely rare. That beach goers have nothing to worry about & would better serve their health looking for a lifeguard than a fin. But it never comes. By failing to do this the mainstream news is misleading the people. They’re lying by omission.
In 2002, only 0.7% of all deaths in the U.S. were homicides, and there has been only 1 case of mad cow disease in the US. (The person had just traveled from the U.K.) In reality neither of these affects the average individual on a daily basis, but you would never know that from watching the news. The “Old Media” has fabricated their own world where shark attacks, double homicides, and mad cow disease are the norm.
Klosterman blames the “New Media” (blogs) for the masses confusing news with entertainment, but the shoe seems to be on the other foot. The “Old Media” with their “if it bleeds – it leads” mentality has turned the news into entertainment. In their quest for ratings, the news has turned to fantastic stories of murder, rape, drugs, disaster, fire, and sex. To spice things up, the national news channels throw in graphics, scrolling bars, and Tucker Carlsons.
Klosterman is right about the cynical new generation with their 1000 channel televisions, high speed internet connections, and 5 second attention spans, but they are cynical because of the world that they live in. They are born into a world where everyone lies, from their favorite baseball player, to that woman who cooks & does crafts, to the right wing show host. They live in the world where the news is saturated with sensationalism and missing vital facts.
So you have a group of people who are looking for information and opinions they can’t get elsewhere. And that where the “New Media” comes in. Some bloggers give a voice to those that aren’t represented in the mainstream. Some message boards are places to discuss ideas that the press won’t talk about. When Larry King has psychological predator Sylvia Browne on his show, despite her refusal to live up to her promise to be tested for her “abilities” for 4 years, the people have nowhere else to turn but the web. The “coming generation” isn’t fabricating a world for their egos, they’re trying to discover the real world behind the smokescreen that the “Old Media” has created.