One of the wonderful things about college (academically, at least) are the speakers that come to campus. Recently, GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs procured three new fellows. I just returned to the dorm after seeing our dean, Frank Sesno, hold a discussion with Joe Lockhart. Lockhart is a professional political operative: he helped found a Washington-based strategic communications firm, has worked on numerous national campaigns and was a press secretary under Clinton. He was witty and interesting and a great source for information about how technology is changing the way that reporters and the public experience news.
According to Sesno and Lockhart, the gatekeepers and grey-beards of old are having trouble filtering what stories will and will not meet public consumption. While at one time (more or less during the Clinton admin) there was an understanding in the press that a story would only go to print if it could be corroborated, that’s not so much the case anymore. We’re now living in a time where people can upload news stories from anywhere at anytime. It’s the 24-hour news cycle.
And it sucks.
Don’t get me wrong, I love how easily I can access information using the internet and I often don’t have the patience to sit down and read the newspaper, and aggregators can be a great way to bundle news that I’ll think is interesting, but it’s not necessarily a good thing. All of this technology, the aggregators for instance, limit my scope of knowledge. Instead of sifting through all of the information a news site puts out, I can read only what I want to know about. That leaves a bit of blank space in which I am entirely uninformed. If that were the case, I would rarely know what was going on in the business world or certain parts of the world.
There’s also something to be said for the instant gratification of it all. We, the young generation who have grown up with iPods and laptops and cell phones are used to everything being accesible at the tips of our fingers. We don’t know how to take a step back. We’re always moving, always looking for new ways to be entertained. We expect to know everything as soon as it happens. But that immediacy isn’t always effective, especially in the age where anyone can publish anything from anywhere. If everyone keeps moving at warp-speed, I feel like something is going to be left behind. Maybe it will be the truth.
It feels almost like information is too easy to come by. When we can easily limit what information gets fed to us, it becomes easier to be apathetic to the types of stories that perhaps don’t interest us, even if they are important. Maybe I’ve romanticized it a little bit in my head, but I want news stories to be accurate and compelling, full of information that is important. I don’t need to know of every affair that’s happened between a senator and whomever or which representative is gay. I want to know when bills are going to be passed and when policy changes happen. Sometimes it just feels like the media is focused on telling the public stories that they feel we, as consumers, are interested in, instead of telling us boring stories, full of minutia, that can impact our lives. Because, really, I don’t care what Kate Gosselin’s doing.