Monday, March 16, 2009

I Got The News

Hello Internet, how was your weekend?

Mine was fine, thanks. I have been taking some enjoyment and wonder at how the national, regional and local news media machines of the last century are trying to figure out how to stay in business (see Clay Shirky's essay).

They say things like: The Internet is killing us off! Un-credentialed writers and photographers and videographers are slumming up the works!! America will die without us!! OMG! News is a business threatened by anyone with the skill to plunk words and images onto a web site!! Civilization is crumbling!!!!!!

I say: Easy there, Sparky. It's just your business that's folding up faster than a cheap cardboard table.

I've spent many years working in those traditional forms of news - print, radio, tv - and worked alongside a heap of very poorly paid and intelligent (sometimes) folk which seemed to bring only wealth and power to a very select few owners and power-brokers. Sometimes important stories broke out and shook up the status quo. Sometimes such tales were crushed to prevent a shake up. Many readers read or listened or viewed the tales told as Gospel. The smartest ones, however, relied on more useful axioms of doubt and critical examination, by probing into the tales being told, by talking to our friends and neighbors and seeking out the opinions and tales being told by others.

I've spent even more years simply working with words, just trying to communicate effectively. Here in America our 26 letters can be combined in ways which rock the world or land with an empty thunk in oblivion.

Here's something I've learned: Humans work mighty hard to create a narrative of design and meaning out of their own experiences. There seems a near primal need to construct a reasonable pattern out of what we see and hear or were told or weren't told, it's just the way our brains want to work. Even when we sleep, we experience sensations which are swirled into patterns of stories and meanings which we dimly recall upon waking, or perhaps the patterns are so intense we can't shake them loose for days and days.

So while a business - a paper or tv station or radio station - begins to land with that thunking sound, it is not a sign of the Apocalypse. Instead we are finding new ways to communicate with each other, about "news" and about our lives. Proof? Tell me, have you ever heard of anyone and I mean anyone taking a class or training seminar on how to text message someone else? Or did we just create the very tools and pieces of it as we were using it?

I do not really consider myself what has been termed a "blogger". I write.

And here in the year of our Lord 2009, more people than ever before in human history are writing and making images and creating and communicating with each other across the digital universe. Not everyone is accessing the Internet or using computers or hand-held digital communicators -- not yet. That may well take decades to take place if it ever does at all.

We don't have to rely on a a few hundred or a few thousand sources of news and information. We're dispensing with all that and news is still being reported and yes, lies and rumors are spread right along with it. Truth emerges under its own viability. Or it thunks as all lies and rumors do.

I have often written things which newspapers or other outlets then reported and I often have written about the things I've read or seen which were created by a newspaper, or a magazine essay, an online account, a song, an image and many other sources of information and communication.

Worries and fears about business will likely be with us always. News or journalism or writing or fact-checking or watch-dogging or whatever you wish to call the infinite narratives of our days is thriving and growing so fiercely it frightens those who no longer have the muscles of control they once had.

I got the news. You can get it too. We make it, ordinary folks who probe and ponder our world. We always have and we always will.

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