our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness Phaedr. 244a


archive: shaping the container


from april 2009

Newspapers vs. Google vs. Newspapers… Back when I was a journalism student in College Park (UMD), Dr. Petrick told us we would someday get our newspaper over the tube and could even talk back to it. (!!!) The loss of a physical newspaper was expected. Good things about it, right upfront. No more black ink on your fingers, no more trees going down, no more gas used to deliver it.

Of course, it’s so much more than that. We lose editors. Editors who shape content, as in what gets on the frontpage (say, 911) and what gets buried (say, the holocaust through the early 1940’s). In full health, a big strapping paper was a big strapping news gathering machine, reporters stationed in far-flung places who knew the area they covered, the culture, and how it all might fit into the grand puzzle. But those types of correspondents have been drying up for at least the last decade, boiling down to the few hardboiled, the few embedded glams.

Worse, wire services have been bought up, shamelessly spun. UPI, now a Rev. Moonie operation. But et tu, AP? Faxes from the far right have been feeding Congress since the 90’s, posing and accepted as gospel. Rupert Murdoch’s Faux News now owns The Wall Street Journal. So the crud has been eating away at journalism in a big MRSA way. And, as science warns us, corporate pork farming is dangerous to humans.

Radio: deliberately dominated by the far right. Clearchannel bought up the majority of stations and the FCC changed the rules that protected us from such vultures. Who listens to it? Truck drivers, night watchmen… The ones who turn on FOX news when they get couch-wise with a brew.

And then we have THE INTERNET. Shiny! Ruled by their own thirst and hunger, individuals used it to sort through the dark wall of the Bush years. We got it right on 13 Myths because we could search and connect directly to sources. Some even connected to us. Sure, the Free Republic has its few, ready and eager to be part of the disinformed, willing to turn from truth and fair and good just so they might annihilate the current bogey (liberals, Muslims, god haters...), whatever helps them circle their wagons… But there’s also Talking Points Memo, which brought down Gonzo and helped George Allen bring his own veryself to ruin. Wateringholes formed from e-mailers who formed into e-lists… Because folks began checking things out.

None of it possible without Google there to search. But those searches, imho, have been harder to negotiate, less able to help penetrate the wall of late. Interested parties buy up search words, saturate and drown information. And — the biggest potential for suffocation — who chooses what stories go up on your google news page? That’s the power the internet is capable of having over news. The power of an editor. Thus we become our own editor. And just at the time that the good old liberal arts education — which is what it takes to even begin to see your way to how things might connect, to begin to understand how much there might be involved in "knowing" — our students have been taking business degrees. MBA’s. Pure tech… I remember reading Reader’s Digest in a doc’s waiting room, a story about an insightful man in an ER who made a casual poetical comment — something well known, from the Bard or maybe Moby Dick — to the tech who was taking his vitals. Next thing he knew, the psychiatric staff descended on him. Ignorant of the source of his casual insightful aside, they thought he was suicidal.

Interesting turn of plot. Who will write its history? Will any of it have existed at all?

plot thickeners:

The Filter Bubble,  Eli Parisner