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What's Wrong with 24/7 News

Reported by Nancy - August 22, 2004 -

Adam Cohen has a good essay in today's (8/22) New York Times, about what Thoreau might think of today's 24/7 news cycle.

I liked it because it fits with my theory that the need to fill 24 hours with "news" leads to "news" being re-defined to include fluff, ephemera, & just plain nonsense. Which in turn leads to the viewing public being ill-informed, & uninformed that they're ill-informed, in an endless downward spiral.

Here's an excerpt -- but you really should go read the whole thing:


Thoreau could not have imagined television news shows endlessly yammering about Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson, or newsstands jammed with accounts of celebrity breakups. But he had a dead-on sense of how they could undermine the human spirit and lead the nation astray. ... [I]t is Thoreau's views on news that have the most contemporary feel. He believed that sensationalist newspaper articles - the mid-19th century equivalent of local television news - were a distraction. ... Thoreau was by no means opposed to news consumption, but he believed society should focus intently on the news that mattered. ... He believed in the importance of information not merely to improve the mind, but as a guide to action. ... Thoreau would be disturbed by today's endless flood of celebrity bulletins and made-for-cable-TV courtroom face-offs not because he thought gossip was inherently wrong, but because of what it was distracting America from. He missed the opportunity to deplore the fact that people who can rattle off the details of the voting in "American Idol" know little about the presidential campaign, and that the Laci Peterson killing gets more attention than North Korea's nuclear program. But he anticipated, long before the 24-hour news cycle and cellphones, that in modern America the problem might well be not too little access to information, but too much.