I started my career in network news around the same time the space shuttle Columbia made its first trip into low-earth orbit.
Also around that same time, CNN (acronym for Cable News Network, was referred to as Chicken Noodle News by those of us in “establishment” TV news at the time) brought the 24-hour TV news cycle to life. That was, I think, one of the first strikes on the first nail in the coffin where the body of real news ultimately got buried.
As my grandmother used to exclaim, “saints preserve us!”
That 24-hour spin cycle has now delivered the most meta of screaming headlines. A media shark frenzy is chowing down on media itself: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and its burgeoning phone hacking scandal has, so far, brought us the heads of Rebekah Brooks, chief of News International and the last editor of The News of the World (I so will not miss that rag) and Sir Paul Stephenson, who was the chief of Scotland Yard until his career got hacked by hiring former NotW editors as Scotland Yard PR flacks.
The wind sown on the day that 24-hour spin cycle started – April 1, 1980 – is now reaping the whirlwind, and taking down an entire profession. Both Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner have a lot to answer for – I’m wondering how wide a net might ultimately be cast as the feeding frenzy keeps bloodying the news-business water.
I’m no longer working directly for any news organization, haven’t been for five years. Part of that decision was driven by the writing I saw on the interwebs wall. The web was eating the lunch of mainstream media, and combined with “the internet wants content to be free!”-ocracy that developed in the first decade of the 21st century, it all meant that making any kind of a living in media was going to be problematic at best, impossible at worst.
But what really drove my decision was my utter disgust at what had happened to my profession in the 20+ years I had been in it. I was passionate about news, about that first draft of history that is the news business, about the feel of newspapers in my hands, about covering stories that I thought were important, exciting, and informative.
Democracy only fully works when an educated citizenry has access to unbiased information about what their overall society is up to, going through, exploring, learning, or pissed off about. By “unbiased” I mean that the reporter isn’t inserting his/her own opinions into their reportage.
Calls ’em like they sees ’em – those should be the rules of the game.
Unfortunately, the advent of a 24/7/365 “feed me!” mindset, along with the rise of info-tainment – which dictates that everything from how Tiger Wood’s wife deploys his 3-wood, to whether or not some celebutante is or is not wearing underpants, to which loser gets a rose from some other loser on some “reality” show that’s about as real as Pam Anderson’s rack – as “news” has brought us here.
At first blush, the crew who was phone-hacking might seem to be just the lower-than-pond-scum Brit tabloid jerks. However, the investigation has crossed the pond, and the FBI is now looking into allegations that Murdoch’s minions were hacking the families of 9/11 victims, seeking headline-worthy dirt.
So, the next time you pick up a People magazine or a supermarket tabloid, watch Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood, read TMZ or Perez Hilton, you must understand that you’re supporting the lack of real information available to move our society, our culture, and our world in a positive direction.
Yep, I’m talkin’ to you.
Stop the insanity.
That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it…