News you can use……
We have lived in the Soviet Union of television journalism for so long that we have actually come to believe that the ‘controlled’ system is ‘better’ than a messy system where anyone can produce anything they like.
What about the ‘rules’ of journalism?
Just as medieval monarchs and Popes pronounced ‘truth’ from on high, or ex cathedra, so today does television news give us it’s ‘truth’ and the rest of us, 99.99999999% of the population, are supposed to ‘receive’ it, and be thankful that Stone Philips and Brian Williams are busy, selflessly grinding away for us.
Free presses are messy. They are supposed to be. We want them to be messy.
For more than 50 years, the technology of video making or television has been so complex and expensive that it was a power of expression that lay in the hands of only a very few (and very rich) people. The pure em spectrum physics of moving pictures and sound through air and space into your home meant that there would only be a very few channels. This combination of expensive and complex technology for creation of content and equally expensive and complex technology for transmission meant that video and TV would be in a very few hands.
So we got used to the idea that Matt and Katie and a few others would decide upon and control what we saw…. and as a result talked about or thought about things… and the rest of us would take up the job of passive watchers.
Because there was no alternative, we created a set of rules for things like ‘balance’ and ‘journalism’, as well as creating an elite corps of ‘journalists’ who would ‘deliver the news’ to us nightly.
It was OK, because these were people you could ‘trust’.
That they began to make 7 figure salaries was OK with us because, after all, they had an important job – they were the ‘oracles of truth’ nightly, and they were ‘people you could trust’.
There were so few of ‘them’ that they became household names. They became intimately tied to the ‘journalism’, so that it became, The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, or World News Tonight With Peter Jennings.
Note: We don’t call it The New York Times With Tom Friedman.
Now that millions of cameras are out in millions of hands, there is a fear that the ‘quality’ of the ‘journalism’ in television news will be somehow diluted.
The elites are worried. And so they should be. Their pornographic paychecks are all in real jeopardy, ….and with good reason. Because here’s a secret they would like to keep from you: anyone can do this. Anyone! The ugly little truth is that it isn’t all that hard to do this.
Pick up a camera, point it at something, push the button.
We are all far more video literate than we think we are. After all, we’ve all spent the past 50 years looking at the stuff every day – for hours! We know what it is supposed to look like. So go make it! Trust me, it isn’t brain surgery.
Will the world be ‘awash’ in video? Jeez, I hope so.
It needs it.
Consider this: there must be 1,000,000 Iraqis with video cameras. Their country is falling apart in front of them daily. Over the past four years, you would think that at least a few of them would have directed their cameras at the tragedy before them. At least a few. When US soldiers burst into your house at 3 am, or your Shia neighbors blew up the local mosque. Something. Sometime.
In all the US coverage of Iraq, how many minutes of Iraqi produced video have you ever seen?
And it’s not just from Iraqis! Go to Youtube and Google Iraq. You will get thousands and thousands of videos from US soldiers who are taking video cameras into battle with them. Most of them make music videos out of the stuff, but the images can be riveting.
How much of their work have seen on television news in four years?
Would ‘none’ be a good number?
So while real soldiers who are getting their asses blown off document their real lives; and while real people how are having their friends and families blown up in front of them on a daily basis document their real lives, we prefer to fly in a few ‘famous journalists’, who don’t speak the language, don’t know the history, don’t know the culture, don’t know squat in fact about what they are talking about – and we call this ‘journalism’.
How then, will we handle the coming tidal wave of video and ‘truth’ that is about to hit us?
We have had this situation for years.
We call it a free press, and its the world of print that we have lived with for several hundred years.
Anyone with a pencil is free to write whatever they want, and publish it.
We encourage it.
But we have also matured as a culture.
We have developed internal mechanisms to filter out the worthwhile from the crap and the lies.
When we turn on a TV news show, because we have lived in the Soviet Union of Television, we expect that everything we see is ‘the truth’.
When we walk into a supermarket and see a newspaper headline screaming “Bat Child Found in Cave”, we don’t think, “oh my God, another bat child!”, and we don’t decry the ‘dangers’ of anyone being able to publish whatever they want.
We just buy the tomatoes and leave.