Thursday, October 21, 2010

The power of print

I was reading a newspaper article about performance scores in local schools. There were a number of times while reading the text I went back to an included table of information to confirm statements.

It dawned on me that if I had been getting this information over the broadcast (mostly TV) media it would have been almost impossible to check or recheck a statement. The broadcast visual is in the background and then, poof, it’s gone. The same for the pundit or talking head who presented the audio.

The internet may be more flexible to read and double check than broadcast media, but only if the information is available.

Weekly and monthly magazines offer a much more permanent file of information than does even the internet. It’s not difficult to browse through an old magazine (especially in the barbershop or doctor’s office) and re-evaluate an old story. Try doing this on the broadcast media or internet, it’s not something you’re likely to do, or be able to do.

But back to my base thought. Will the gradual demise of the print media result in our looking at information a different way? Will today’s broadcast always supplant yesterday’s information? Will we become more susceptible to propaganda?

We can always find appropriate information on the internet, but can we find the most important information? The paradox is that information which is most available to us is the information we have the least ability to act on.

Riots in France? What are you going to do about it? The same for Pakistan’s internal strife, corruption in Afghanistan, England reducing it’s budget. Plenty of internet coverage, but mostly a rehash of the print reporting.

But, what about what’s happening in your home town? Does the internet have coverage of your city council or school board meetings? Even if the internet were to report on these, it would only be a rerun of the local paper’s print reporting.

But strangely enough, that’s the news you can most easily act on. Not just the official government actions but the high school sports schedules and scores and local events. Can you get movie listings and times without resorting to print media? Without the internet getting it from print media?

Once you don’t know what’s happening around you locally you’re on the way to ignorance of what most directly effects your day to day life. It’s only a small step to then not paying that much attention to what else is happening in the world.

We’ve come to accept punditry as information when it’s just opinion. We’re being fed propaganda as information. I recently came across the term “management by propaganda”. I think we’re much closer to accepting propaganda as news or information than we think.

I haven’t come to any conclusion but speculate we will become much more shallowly informed and more easily mislead. If the last several years of spin and propaganda haven’t made you feel manipulated then you’re already accepting that as real information.

God help the country.

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