Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The future of news

Sex! Violence ! Tits ! Teeth ! Sports ! Celebrity !

The focus of the world's official media seems to become more and more banal with every passing day. There was a time when I confess I lamented the lack of in-depth reporting and analysis. Now I can't even be bothered with that.

Call it the commercial radio effect. Commercial radio has always struggled. The total market size is roughly 12.5% of the available advertising spend. It isn't much to carve up between dozens of broadcasters. So what does commercial radio do to survive? It does what it has to do - it gets in your face. So we have morning hijinks, song requests, talk-back, shock-jocks and all the usual blah-blah of people trying to hussle for attention in order to turn a buck.

For a long time TV didn't have to do that in New Zealand. It had 25% of the market and there were only two operations competing for it. TV could do what it liked.

Then along came the internet.

Well, magazines were questionable and newspapers classifieds vanished. Then slowly TV began to get more and more desperate. It had already strong links to radio and it began to become more and more like commercial radio. The ads became louder, simpler and more strident. There were more events. TV discovered the joy of watching people being bullied by celebrities. Documentaries became more and more about the act of making documentaries and less about the topic. And finally along came Australian broadcaster Rove McManus and the 'morning crew' was now the evening crew on the box.

And as they have for decades where TV went newspapers followed in their ponderous and boring way. And now newspaper websites are full of the same trite crap that TV pushes. Material that not only requires a reading age of 12 but, indeed, a mentality of 12 to find it interesting.

The mistake of bloggers, in my view, is to treat the mainstream media as anything other than a distraction. I have seen YouTube videos of people giving their opinions about events in other countries they have obviously never visited and clearly don't understand, as if what the media had told them about those nations needed rebuttal. It doesn't! Responding to media lies and half-truths with incomprehension and braggadacio is pointless. Who cares?

The answer in my view can be found in those lovely lines of disederata:

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.."

Thus in my view the news is what we make it and the way we choose to record it. It is the effort of attention we make in our own lives and those special things which we notice be they good or bad, great or small.

And so to the news:

This morning as I waited for the bus, with a quickening Spring wind suggesting I should have worn more than a thin jersey, I noticed we have three Tuis in our Macrocarpa who don't seem to have quite worked out a nesting regime as yet. I suspect there are two males and an undecided or perhaps flirtatious female. On the other hand I suppose there is no particular reason why not there shouldn't be two males.

I learned today that our long awaited Matangi trains have nowhere to store passenger's bicycles, so when they enter service next year taking one's bike on the train will be a lot more difficult. So much for alternate modes.

I also learned that Metlink is now on Google transit - the first new Zealand service in the country and that NZTA is extending its dubious travel information system.

None of this is earth shattering, alarming or even very significant. It is the mundane of daily life. But in my view this minutae is the future of news. It is the news of every person that becomes the news of the whole world.

It is how the mundane but real can defeat the banal but imaginery.

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