Monday, December 20, 2004

M.S.M. R.I.P.

I know I am not the first to weigh in with this verdict, but I want to comment anyway. The way that Americans, and much of the world gets news is changing. I came to a startling realization the other day: I have not read a news magazine in nearly two years! That's saying a lot, because I consider myself somewhat of a news junkie, and I used to avail myself to Newsweek, Time, USN&WR, etal on a regular basis. It was not even a conscious decision to quit reading them. Rather, it seems that the need to read them disappeared. So much of the news cycle has rotated on a story by the time Time hits the shelves that anything the magazine's writers and reporters have to say about it is, well, old news. And it obviously is not just print media. Many people lately are commenting on the demise of the major network evening news format, and attributing the decline to an 'elitism' and biased reporting. Both are contributors, I'm sure. But think about it! In my mind, these guys have simply been beaten to the punch. Say a major story breaks at 10:15 AM on a Tuesday, and say further that one of the MSM networks gets the scoop (we'll pretend it's CBS, just for Dan's sake.) Here's what happens: Dan or an available anchor breaks into programming to tell viewers about the big news. He takes about two minutes to brief everyone on what's up. Then he signs off with the admonition to watch The CBS Evening News for full coverage. Immediately, everyone that wants to continue following the story flips over to their favorite 24/7 news channel and CBS's scoop is worth squat. Others are following the story online at offices, the blogosphere is in high gear, and talk radio picks up the ball and runs with it. By the time 6:00 Eastern roles around the story has been sliced and diced, and Dan, Peter and Tom (Brian) have old news. Evening 'news' shows have become recaps of stories people have already heard about. I heard James Lileks' on Hewitt this evening while driving home, and he compared the blogosphere to a beehive, with the contributing blogs busily working to make the honey - coherent analysis of news - for people to consume and regard as they see fit. I hope I did not do too much damage to his analogy, but I think that is the gist of it. He also compared the networks' delivery of news to an elephant giving birth. I would say that in the not too distant future, he could change the elephant to a wooly mammoth.

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