Klosterman & The “New” vs. “Old” Media

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.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

10 thoughts to “Klosterman & The “New” vs. “Old” Media”

  1. Hi Knickerblogger,
    I enjoy reading your blog, its the most in-depth Knicks forum out there. With respect to “New Media” Klosterman writes, “they add no information or ideas”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Bloggers provide information, insight and commentary on news that is reported by the mainstream media. At KB, hard info (like stats, PER, etc.) is presented along with Joe Anybody’s opinion, making for a truly interactive forum that ,by the way, isn’t controlled by political interests and big business (unlike many “Old Media” news agencies). At the risk of “pretending to comment” on someone I have never personally interviewed, I think Klosterman is overly cynical of a culture that he himself contributes to. After all, is his rambling editorializing really any different from a bloggers’?

  2. Mike:

    Chuck and Bill’s exchange on blogs has clearly touched a few nerves as I have seen this type of blog posted on several sites. As far as I can tell, Chuck and Bill are not talking about blogs like yours (or mine, I would hope) but the many blogs that do little else but link to news articles and criticize the agenda/writing/political slant/etc.

    I don’t know about what percentage of bloggers are intelligent and deserve to be read vs. what percentage of professional journalists are intelligent and deserve to be read, but the truth is that the vast majority of both sides are horribly biased, unintelligent and just plain lame. It seems pointless for “new media” and “old media” to take potshots at each other. Both sides have plenty to be embarrassed about.

    I guess my point is that I don’t take offence at their comments and neither should you because we shouldn’t include ourselves in the group Klosterman is attacking. Then again, I’m a bit of a snob because I actually have a Journalism degree and I intentionally turned my back on “old media” because I didn’t feel like having to pay my dues writing obituaries and covering the local handicapped water polo team so I could one day have a shot at covering the Raptors.

  3. I think Klosterman’s right inasmuch as the blogosphere is mostly people with no tangible connection to journalism espousing their (sometimes) worthless opinions, and never having to back up those opinions with facts, or sources. But Klosterman’s so busy complaining about the “what” that he doesn’t take the time to ask “why”… Why are people starting to assume that the media is inherently useless? Why do young people see no difference between news and entertainment? And why is the coming generation even more cynical than the current one? Well, I think CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC are very good examples of why the mainstream media is viewed as useless: whenever news programs (especially on 24-hour networks) need ratings, and depend on those numbers to survive financially, their stories cease to be unbiased. The stories instead become what their viewership wants to see, because that’s what keeps them coming back, and keeps the advertisers happy. “Fair and balanced”? Are they even watching their own network? As for Klosterman’s second statement, that news and entertainment are now one and the same, he blames blogs for this? When Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s baby headlines USA Today, or Tom Cruise’s overblown, movie-shilling sham of an engagement leads off the nightly news, of course today’s kids see no difference between news and entertainment! What did Klosterman expect after 20 years of networks basically telling us that the two are interchangeable? Klosterman and his colleagues are all too eager to make a living as cogs in the media machine, but when the bill comes in for the media’s yellow-journalistic policies of the last couple decades, he’s quick to point the finger at the “new media” of blogs and personal websites. I’ve got news for Mr. Klosterman: the “old media” involved Walter Kronkite, and would never have stooped to the degrading lows of today’s news machine. The type of media that Klosterman is a part of today defies description, and it’s one that I don’t recognize anymore.

  4. the best sites not only cite their opinion, they link to original documents, add expertise in their areas and overall provide context to situations. the Rather/Mapes forgeries from last year was a classic example of someone with typographic expertise immediately recognizing an anachronism (times new roman script in a 1970s document)and the news being out within three hours. secondly some sites like some foreign policy journals retain historical knowledge or provide wider context. otherwise you end up with endless stories of people getting blown up with no idea of any strategy behind it. or stories detailing increased risk of cancer for eating M&Ms without letting you know what that increase really means. i appreciate the blogs because they have opened my ideas to how often journalist don’t see the real story or misunderstand the situation. i.e logistics to support Katrina.
    anyway back to important detail, the season starts at the end of the month and I will be in san antonio attending a conference that i was force to go to. the upside, the world champion spurs open 02nov05. gotta call folks for tickets, yeah!

  5. A couple of things here…

    1) the “highlighted word” I was just asked to enter was “pubic”. WTF?

    2) Tucker Carlson always wears those funny looking bowties. How can you take him seriously in the first place unless you close your eyes when you’re listening to him on the TV? And even then, he still has a funny voice.

    3) I read the Simmons/Klosterman exchange when it first came out, and found it entertaining at the time. I still do. I didn’t even think twice about the commentary on New vs Old Media, because in my mind there are different types of New Media, and it’s easy to lambast the crappy ones while lauding the good ones. Chuck did much of the first, and not a lot of the 2nd. The proliferation of the internet has been a trammel or a treasure, depending on who you ask. That’s a patently easy statement to make, because I’m not pointing any fingers at anyone specifically. But it’s also true; the tough part is distinguishing the good from the bad. Of course, I can also see how and why KB would take offense, being that you’re part of the “New Media” that Klosterman ripped. However, rest assured, KB, that you’re one of the “good guys” here…after all, I’m not even sure that you’re *on* myspace.com, much less posting a blog on it.

  6. Wow, great commentary. Nice to see that someone is aware of the reality around them. If you really want to freak out, read Noam Chomsky, particularly “Manufacturing Consent”. His stuff is a hard read but the bottom line is exactly what you pointed out. The media, in cohoots with the government, create their own reality to manipulate the general populace.

    Glad to see that a site dedicated to sports has the intelligence and courage to point out the level of deceit and hypocrisy in our mainstream media.

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