24 thoughts on “CNN and the New York Times: “Exactly the same thing”

  1. Mike Kennedy says:

    Gotta love the internet when you can find anything in the news in a few key strokes. I found this from the Democratic Governor of West Virginia. It is quite the ad.

  2. Dennis Lang says:

    Cool subject broached more than once by the Crowd. Is Internet access ultimately altering the way we actually “think”. And is it all necessarily positive? Of course media is evolving into new forms, and we adapt along with it, but as I read Bilton, in particualr his comment: “the media industry can learn from porn,” I’m reminded by what a porn insider recently told me. He was lamenting the future of larger productions and their attempt at plot and character development as a vehicle for erotic content. The Internet has made these productions superfluous and porn entirely utilitarian: people surfing for scenes to get off on, watching a few minutes, masturbating, and moving on. To what extent is the same thing happening to the future of journalism?

    1. PM says:

      I don’t know, but it seems to me as if journalism is actually heading in the opposite direction from the porn industry. Whereas porn is apparently becoming more and more utilitarian and divorcing itself from art (people want to get off, not so much titillated), journalism seems to me to be trending more and more towards entertainment, with facts being abandoned for the sake of a consistent narrative meant to excite or entertain or enrage (and to hell with what the facts show!).

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        Yes, although the question raised in my mind is that the technology, while bombarding us instantaneously with information, some factual, some dubious, may ultimately have the effect of diminishing the form, or as in the case of pornography making the intention to elevate the artistry of the form superfluous, as it opens up endless new channels of distribution. In journalism we will see the passing of those intricately constructed narratives that engage you, hook you and get you to identify with places and personalities. These narratives require more of the reader than Internet surfing–grabbing a chunk of information, “getting off”, moving on–and the facts so conveyed enhance our understanding.

  3. Ellen Mrja says:

    Never thought of the relationship between journalism and porn before. Perhaps that’s how we can save the newspaper industry..not.

    Young people (i.e. not us) are quite happy to get a “hit” of news on their iPhones or Palm Pre — or when they open up their computer and CNN home page pops up automatically.

    But it is all “push” content. Very few young people “pull down” content from the NYT, let’s say. Their thinking is: “If big news breaks, it will find me.”

    1. And that’s essentially true, isn’t it? I “pull” a lot of news and information from a lot of sources. I’m pulling all day long. But it’s almost exclusively news and information that related directly to my life and my interests.

      Other news and information — the big-picture stuff that certainly affects my life, just in a less direct fashion — need not be sought out. I am, without doubt, confident that if it’s important, I will hear about it.

      1. PM says:

        Sure. And if you are on the beach and a tsunami is headed your way, it will find you as well.

        What you are pulling is stuff that you are looking for–things you know you need to know.

        your assumption is that the stuff you do not know that you will need to know about you will find out about in sufficient time, with little effort on your part (“it will find you”).

        but is that so? will it find you in time? and what about good ol’ intellectual curiosity? my favorite part about looking things up in libraries (both on the shelves and in the card catalogue–there’s a way of dating oneself!) was the serendipity–what was next to the book you were looking for? how can you know what you need if you don’t know what is available?

        yeah, i know all about the problems and pitfalls of information overload as well as the importance of focus, but…..

        well, I am the kind of person who reads the bibliography of almost every book, and even underline it. And I think it is time well spent.

      2. Yep, that news would find me during my beach getaway. The bar I wander up to for another Tanq and tonic would warn guests, or the TV in the hotel lobby would be blaring with warnings, or David Hasselhoff and Pam Anderson would be running dramatically down the beach hollering warnings and sweating just right.

        Intellectual curiosity is satisfied by the wealth of content I “pull down” on a daily basis. I read every article in every issue of Newsweek (at least, until the subscription lapses and I move to Time or something), I follow hundreds of interesting people on Twitter, I listen to MPR at drive time…

        Maybe I’m confusing the concepts of “push” and “pull,” but the point is, I focus my intentional consumption on shit I actually care about. I enjoy reading Newsweek. I love All Things and Marketplace. I love the serendipitous discovery of curious items on Twitter. I don’t need to “pull” content from specific sources in an effort to “find all the stuff that affects me now” because, as I said, if it *is* important, it’ll find me.

  4. Ellen Mrja says:

    PM: Your tsunami metaphor is apt. But – arguing from what my students might say – I’ll find out about the tsunami on a social networking site such as Facebook and see Twitpics from people who live one thousand miles away even before the media know it.

    However, information overload -> information fatigue within this Baby Boomer. There aren’t enough applications, calendars, alarm clocks, online filing programs, RSS feeds and e-mail NYT alerts to organize (tame) it all.

    What to do? In my fantasy, I’d do what I’d really like to do in my living room: get rid of all of our furniture until we’re down to a white, Zen-like empty space. My husband and I would then re-introduce furniture one piece at a time beginning with one pillow. The new rule: If it has an aesthetic that feeds the soul or some unique utilitarian aspect, we will keep it. If not, we’d send it down to Florida for Bubba and Mrs. LaFay.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        Yeah, that’s just it, isn’t EM? What we might have once considered journalism has become for your students a blur of pixels thumb-rolled like text messages or twits (tweats?) All they need is the headline and some supporting facts and they’re on their merry way. Hence the connection to pornography, and millions of five-minute scenes to get off on with hundreds of new ones continually in production. No room for contemplation, conjecture, nuance, with information presented this way because it no longer matters. Speed and diversity are what matters.

      2. “All they need is the headline and some supporting facts and they’re on their merry way.”

        In many cases, that’s all that’s needed. I don’t need the nuance in “there’s a fucking tsunami a mile away!” I don’t need nuance in “primary elections in your town are held on September whatever.” But I get plenty of nuance and contemplation and detail and commentary and all sorts of other beyond-the-headline stuff all the time.

        Yes, Twitter (for example) *has* absolutely changed my media consumption habits. But not in the way most people would assume. It has not come at the expense of, say, the Star Tribune. In fact, I read journalism produced by the Strib *more often* now. Twitter and the like have simply *increased* the content I consume.

        Envision my life as a glass jar. The large chunks of content I used to consume — books, newspapers, music albums, TV shows — are like rocks in the jar. I’d regularly fit a lot of rocks in the jar, but there was a lot of empty space between the rocks. Now, with newer, smaller, more convenient content — tweets about newspaper articles, music videos on YouTube, breaking news from Facebook posts, online clips of TV shows — are acting like grains of sand filling in the space between the rocks.

        That doesn’t come at the expense of (for example) the Strib. If anything, that should drive the Strib to be better, knowing it has to compete with (bringing the discussion full circle!) formerly non-competitive outlets like CNN.

  5. Dennis Lang says:

    I guess my shabby point was that the Internet isn’t necessarily friendly to the longer pieces that may have the intention of immersing us in the experience. I wasn’t thinking of weather reports, rather the kind of reporting that seeks out the drama and meaning, the pain of that moment of tsunami–beyond the boney statistics of lives lost and the dimensions of the tidal wave. The kind of journalism capable of making an abstraction something concrete for us. MJK you are clearly a man of the age of information, adapting and synthesizing many disparate sources. What happened to those drinks you and Benidt promised? (And now he’s long gone.)

    1. Those pieces you’re talking about are the rocks in my example above. And the Internet is full of rocks — some created in ways simply not possible before the Internet. Stuff like this: http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/senate

      As for the drinks, I tried to get folks together at the big Fast Horse (my employer) summer party, but it was too little, too late. And then Bruce moved away. Still, we must keep on fighting — for drinks! Someday, soon, I hope.

  6. Ellen Mrja says:

    Mike: Your answer reminded me of this oldie but goodie. (And, appropos of this post: Are we filling our heads with internet sand at the expense of big meaningful rocks?)
    Rocks, Pebbles, Sand

    A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2 inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.
    So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.
    He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The students laughed.
    The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
    Now, said the professor, I want you to recognize that this is your life:

    …The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed.

    …The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

    …The sand is everything else. The small stuff.

    If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups.
    Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.
    Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities.
    The rest is just sand.

  7. In journalism we will see the passing of those intricately constructed narratives that engage you, hook you and get you to identify with places and personalities

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