Tag Archives: media

Misplaced Energy

As always, it takes me much longer to wrap words around my ideas than it seems to do for others. This post is what I came up with as a response to Fandango’s One Word Challenge from yesterday: Energy. Warning: It is very oriented to current events in the USA and might not be of interest to people from other places.

Background: I’ve been practicing the discipline of staying up to date with current events since I got back from Mount Rainier.

My media blitz continues. Although I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. By Friday, yesterday, I was disgusted; I just looked at the descriptions of shows to get an idea of what they were about and skipped watching the drama. I did watch PBS Newshour.

Reflecting on this week I feel that there is a lot of misplaced energy.

This week’s events:

  • At the start of the week almost 600 children at the Mexican border were still not back with their families.
  • The Difficult Toddler sent out an almost presidential tweet decrying racism.
  • Damp squib white supremist rally in D.C.
  • Former aid helped the Toddler overcome the disappointment of his base by coming out and making sure that everyone remembers that he is a racist. For much of the week they had a good old “reality TV” session, entertaining by trading insults.
  • A bridge in Italy collapsed killing a lot of people.
  • Media coordinated editorial day on first amendment rights.
  • Oops: Fox “News” declared that the aid, Omarosa, had “won”. So the administration pulled out a back dated memo taking away former CIA chief’s security clearance because he knows the truth about Russia, thinks the reality TV type crap isn’t presidential, and had the kahunas to say it. (Not surprising he had the kahunas since he was instrumental in taking down bin Laden.)
  • Very brief mentions of serious questions about the Supreme Court nominee and that Republicans are blocking access to documents that are relevant to his qualifications. It seems that he lied during his confirmation hearings for his current judgeship and holds the checks and balances system, an essential part of our constitution, in disdain.
  • The Manafort trial continued and we heard a lot of speculation and inuendo about what various minutia might mean.
  • At the end of the week, last night, almost 600 children at the Mexican border are still not back with their families.

Here is what I draw from the past week:

First: I am beginning to wonder how free the “free press” is. While I am far from believing the press is “enemy of the people”, I do think it could do much, much better at not allowing the administration to set the agenda and distract us from important issues. At this time, I consider the following to be the most important issues this week: the children separated from their families, the Supreme Court judgeship, the state of election security, and some research into the state of US infrastructure. These issues got very little press coverage over the course of the week.

Second: A lot of energy went into the damp squib (I borrowed that phrase from The Economist) white supremist rally in DC. It felt almost like the press wanted something exciting (always bad in a situation like this) to happen. In my view the massive amount of coverage gives legitimacy to a movement that should have none.

Third: The Difficult Toddler being a racist isn’t news. The Omarosa stuff belonged in a gossip column, not on supposedly serious news programs.

Fourth: It is inappropriate, and a bit absurd, to spend so much time speculating about details of the Manafort Trial. When there actually is news, report it. But Manafort staring stoically at Gates during testimony and the jury asking a few standard questions is not news. Stick with the content of the testimony and do not conjecture about what it might mean. This kind of reporting can potentially lead to a mistrial. One of the concepts that sets the USA apart, for now anyway, is that people are assumed innocent until proven guilty. Keeping the integrity of our judicial system intact is very important and we all should do what we can to help, including refraining from conjecture.

Last, but certainly not least, if the press is going to coordinate efforts I don’t think editorials are the way to go. Do it by demonstrating the value of a free press. A few examples that might serve our nation:

  • At White House press briefings make sure that someone always asks for a progress report on reuniting families, no matter what the topic of the day is. All media venues should play the response. You needn’t analyze it every time. Just make sure the question is asked and the response played, every day.
  • Parenting 101: Don’t let bad behavior like removing Brennen’s clearance or overt racism get much attention. It creates positive reinforcement for bad behavior. It also demeans the media.
  • Focus on issues instead of personality. Try to spend a week without using the president’s name. Just report factually on issues and events.
  • How about dedicating a themed news day to a specific subject, for example, the plight of the children. Explore it in depth: how the situation arose, what is being done to reunite the families, and what is or isn’t being done to prevent such a situation in the future. Yes, a lot of reporting has been done, but it’s here and there. Yes, it would be a bit repetitive, but not more so than Omarosa and the Difficult Toddler trading insults followed by a string of people sounding off that he is racist, or trying to speculate what it might mean that the judge looked at his notes during the Manafort trial. Other possible topic for a themed news day might be our election systems or the Supreme Court.

The Difficult Toddler demeans the press, but the press also demeans itself by taking the offered bait whole heartedly. We also have responsibility. Ratings rule: don’t watch garbage. Some shows are good on some nights and not on others: turn them off when they stray into innuendo and gossip instead of solid information.

 

 

Asking for answers

I read a post from A Lot from Lydia this morning. It got me thinking, yet again, about how media decides what we should know about in depth and, as a consequence, what we should ignore. I spent a rare few hours with a television yesterday and you’d never have known many of the things, all verifiable, that Lydia mentions. Why is that?

The newscasters seemed more interested in shouting one sided one liners.

I have been pondering how more moderate people have been pushed aside, on both the left and right. The word “conservative” these days seems to be what anarchists call themselves. How can we get our questions answered?

This morning, after the front page of the Seattle Times above the fold was about

  • Our former mayor’s pension,
  • How to identify gifted kids
  • Amazon’s profits

While all of these are news,  they are not, in my view, front page material. Mayor and kids are local news and Amazon is for the business section. I realize that I am unusual in that I rarely see TV news (we don’t own a television), so they probably expect people to know more than I do.

However, I decided to try something, and I’m encouraging you all to do it also: I sent a note to the editor requesting a couple of in depth articles:

Dear Sir,
I rely on the newspaper for my news and like the way it takes a less sensationalized approach to reporting that allows me to understand issues.
There are two topics I’d really like to see discussed in depth:
1) The Russian Sanctions that were not imposed. Here are some questions I’d like to see answered:
  • -Why they were called for by congress?
  • -What exactly they were supposed to be?
  • -What is the impact on both our economy and Russia’s?
  • -What was the rationale for not imposing them (in depth with both pros and cons)?
  • -What is the legal situation of a president not acting on a law passed by congress?

2) The Tax law passed right before Christmas. I’d like to have a table showing all of the parts and how they will impact individuals, businesses and the finances of the nation. Even though the law was passed some time ago I’ve never felt like I fully understood all that was in it. The background for this is that I read recently that they will have to raise the debt limit earlier than anticipated due to unexpected impact from the new law.

Respectfully yours,

Do you think if enough people request the media to provide less sensationalist content it might make a difference?

What else can one do?

I’m Puzzled.

Words are all I have…

The world is filled right now with folks speaking out. It was almost a relief that today’s newspaper hasn’t come (or maybe it is in the bushes or under the porch). Yesterday’s had me in emotional distress all day.

This got me thinking a very unorthodox thought: Perhaps the most effective way to Speak Out in today’s world is for us to start reading newspapers again, and turn off the boob tube.

Show the media that they have to start reporting fact, not opinion, “alternate facts”, or just plain old fiction, by hitting them in their ratings. Everything is being turned into a made for TV drama. Wise up folks: The way to stop toddlers from having tantrums is not to give them attention for having them. Even in print reporting should be strictly about issues, with names not listed in the headlines, so people don’t get ego boosts from seeing their faces and names on TV 24-7.

If there wasn’t the instant ego gratification of “news” coverage, the incentive to do dumb stuff in rapid fire would go away. We need to cultivate a society that values thinking things through over having temper tantrums on stage. Everyone, on both sides, feels like they have to speak out quickly. This results in a barrage of opinions getting the headlines and facts showing up so late that no one hears them because we have moved on to the next sensation.

I live in a nation which has a constitutional right to free speech. This is a good thing. It is, of course, a two edged sword: people who don’t agree with your point of view get to speak freely as well. That doesn’t bother me so much.

My concern these days is that people are coming out with opinion, “alternative facts” (aka, what they wish was true) and even false news and presenting it as truth. They have the right to do this. Even legitimate news programs have taken to reporting opinion as if it were news. I don’t have a TV so don’t know when this started, but one night over at Dad’s the local news channel presented tweets and Facebook entries! Excuse me??? Apparently this is a regular feature.

One problem is that there are way too many “news” shows for the amount of actual news that American audiences are willing to watch.

There is a good deal more going on in the world than what we hear on the 5 o’clock news. If we were less parochial perhaps presidential candidates would know where Aleppo is..although maybe was is more accurate in this case. Heaven forfend that the media tell us about things elsewhere in the world, those long drawn out battles and hardships in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia are so tedious, not the way to boost ratings.  They are complicated and can’t be explained in 140 characters, so off with their heads. You can watch for 15 minutes and have a handle on everything they are going to bother to report in the next two hours, but most people numbly sit there for an hour or even two, and with every repeat they become hypnotized into thinking they know what is going on in the world. Of course actually knowing about and trying to understand those issues might make us stop and think about the consequences of our actions, that’s not much fun.

Okay, off the soap box. The sun is shining on the day before the groundhog pops up: what will tomorrow bring? Hopefully not another executive order…it’s getting tedious.

Random Thoughts about Learning

Reading a blog post this morning, The Great Divide, Part 2 by Yoga Leigh got me thinking about learning in general, and learning for those of “un certain age” in particular.

So it seems to me it’s time to figure something out for the workers who have been left behind.  I’ve seen the opinion we can help their children (presumably by training for tech jobs) but there’s nothing to do for the 40-60 year-olds who have neither jobs nor the skills to move to the technology sector.  Surely in a nation as great as this we can do better than that.

Is the specific paragraph that triggered my pondering.

I do not believe that people in the 40-60 and higher age range cannot learn skills. I know that my 93 year old grandmother learns to use updates to computer programs. She taught herself to use programs for bookkeeping and managing orders after she was 50 and worked using those skills until she was 85. I have learned languages (Japanese, Chinese and I am working on Spanish) and technical skills since I turned 40.

I believe that we all learn all the time. It is just a matter of motivation and willingness to drudge on when things seem tough. My husband, and others in technical fields, are continually updating their knowledge and skills. If people don’t learn new skills it is at least partly about their attitude toward learning. But it may also be about the environment.

For me learning takes many steps to really take hold. Taking in information, trying to use the information, and just being in a place where the information is part of the environment. With language this means just hearing it spoken. With computer skills it means reading technical information where people are using the lingo and talking about how they use the skills. It seems like the information Percolates into me as I use it and watch it used.

I sure don’t think I know the answer to the problem that Leigh discusses, but I wonder if the media could be helpful by creating an environment where people are exposed to the skills they need to move into technology, motivating people to learn the skills, and by promoting the idea that people can learn the skills.

What do you think?

An Edgy Idea

I realize that this idea is over the Edge 😉 But it came to me when I saw the prompt.

In this morning’s Seattle Times there was an editorial titled “Hate speech is often free speech, but how can we stop it?” by Caitlin Ring Carlson, an assistant professor at Seattle University.

It was among other editorials about the presidential candidates and responses to current events. You probably know more than I about the issues, so I won’t bore you with them. I mention this one because I thought of a response, one that I haven’t seen anyone else put forward. Take the profit motive away.

We live in a ratings driven world. Part of the problem is not related to “free speech”.  The media today gives us more and more of what we watch (witness how many hours of “tiny houses” showed on the television yesterday, they must have shown every tiny house in the country!). Decisions about what to air, and how much face time various folks get, is profit driven, news today is entertainment, not a public service, and ratings drive what we see. We are seeing more hate speech because it is getting watched and advertisers need to promote their drugs for sleepless, depressed folks with low-T who need to have their closets organized and take a cruise.

Here is something anyone can do: Deny an audience to people who are guilty of hate speech. Flip the channel to HGTV or re-runs of crime shows when the TV shows hate speech, better yet turn it off. Turn off the radio, don’t buy the magazine, don’t go to the web site for more information. If a debate turns away from serious issues, then turn it off. When ratings drop these people will get less media attention (which is what they are after, running for president every time your name is put in front of people is free advertising) and they will have less power.

In today’s world silence is something we fear. It is a form of communication and it can, and probably should, be used to help curb the excesses of this somewhat surreal presidential campaign.