Monday, April 25, 2005

A short news media fast

I just got done doing one of these and I highly recommend it. Take a week, maybe just the weekend or a few days and just don't consume mainstream media, particularly news media, during that time.

The first day is tough, but the days after get kind of interesting in that your mind begins to wander in places that it does not go often. In this, I realize the level of attention we have become accustomed to granting our media companies is too high. What do I mean by that exactly? Glad you asked.

I mean too high in that our ability to just ponder things is diminished by all the information we are taking in. We just don't take time to think about things we want to think about anymore. Of course this is not true for everyone, but I can honestly say that it is true for me.

While tuned out, I thought about my life and family more than I usually do and came away with some ideas to help improve that without too much work or money being involved. That's worth it in itself, but there is more. Local TV news is quite shocking after not watching for a while. What I see now is a sales pitch for local business and other interested parties and a lot of crime reporting along with some light local politics. No solid disucssion of any real issues from what I can see. Where are the investigative reporters I used to see? Were they really there as I remember from childhood? I'm tempted to get some archives to see for myself.

The national news is a joke as well. I see human interest stories that really don't matter, sprinkled with health warnings, crime and some bonehead "what the president did today" stories. There is lots of opinion too. In my opinion, this bias is in favor of the President in that good things get reported to death, probably because there just are not that many of those to report on, real issues get only the most cursory treatment. (This is a disservice to all of us.) Again I ask where is the investigative reporting? Anyone can publish a press release. Is this really where our national media has diminished to?

My newspaper is somewhat more interesting than the television or radio is, but it still avoids the heavy hitting topics far more than it should. Where are the stories about voting, health care, social security, Tom Delay, etc...?

During this little fast, I did seek news and opinion on the Internet and found something very interesting there, missing from mainstream media. What is is you ask?

I found facts and truth mixed in with an amazing variety of opinion. Lots of people, such as myself right here on OpenGeek, writing about stuff and talking with one another, exchanging views all over the map. What a refreshing and colorful medium compared to the bland traditional media.

I'm not saying the Interent should be king, though I must admit I am giving it a lot more attention from now on. I am saying there is something really wrong with our mainstream media that needs to be fixed. Our vibrant culture is being dimmed by a media that grows more tame by the day. As an American I am ashamed really. We used to be better than this. At least I remember us being better than this. Were we, or did the enhanced communication possible with the Internet just open my eyes a little more than they were before?

Do it. Turn off your TV, Radio, and just give your paper to your less fortunate neighbor who might not otherwise have one to read. Do it for a week, or maybe just a few days. Enjoy a brief fast as I did. It's easier than you think and well worth it.

Spend a little time online searching on things you think you might find interesting. Participate in a message board. Interact with your family and talk about things. Your kids will bring up very interesting things to talk about I assure you this is time well spent. Keep a notepad handy and write down those meandering threads that bubble up when given the chance and follow them.

When you come back to plug in again, wonder about your reaction. Will it be the same as mine? I'm betting it will.

I plan to take a little time this week to write my local media and let them know what I just learned. I'm going to ask them how they got where they are today and encourage them to consider the longer term cost. Afterall a vibrant and questioning media is in all of our best interests. Will this be the Internet going forward, or can our traditional media step up and do what they are supposed to be good at in like kind?

My expectation of getting answers is pretty small really. Maybe they will think a little, maybe not. Maybe if they hear it from more people things will change, maybe not. For me, things have changed in that I am now going to make sure and carve out a little space for me and my thoughts. Why not do the same? Better, do as I am doing here and write something about it. Interested others will be better for it just as you will.


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