April 09, 2006

Down With the Media Kvetch

William Powers:

I want to propose that The Media Kvetch is wrong. Not a little wrong or occasionally wrong, but absolutely blind to reality -- and kind of crazy. And we should send it packing.

Contrary to popular belief, this era may be a kind of high-water mark in the evolution of media, precisely because of all the flux. Ignore the kvetch for a second and think about this: Thanks to technology's ferment, we have all these new media. Yet at the same time, the old outlets are still very much with us. Not a single pre-Internet medium has died yet, though predictions of their demise are issued every day. And not only do old and new coexist, but they are actually learning from each other. Big newspapers and television networks now sponsor blogs, while countless blogs are trying to acquire the reputations and readership those old-time outlets still enjoy.

Every assumed negative about today's media universe obscures an underlying positive. A few examples:

1. Newspapers are dying. Perhaps, but right now they are still breathing and, as James Surowiecki noted in The New Yorker last week, still very profitable. At the moment, we get to pick between a hard copy that costs practically nothing, and a screen version that is almost always free. Enjoy it while it lasts.

2. Television is getting dumber. Quantitatively, it's unquestionably true that there is more dumb TV than smart. But this is nothing new. Dancing With the Stars will always trump The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. But the fact is, there is more of both smart and dumb in today's buffet than there has ever been before. Dumb is a choice.

3. Gravitas is dead. This is the alleged Katie Couric problem -- not serious enough to be an anchor. Have you ever watched clips from the supposed glory days of the old TV anchors? They were not as compelling as some remember. A day may well arrive when no media company in its right mind will shell out tens of millions of dollars for a real journalist like Couric, who has creditably covered serious beats (e.g., the Pentagon) in her career. Couric is a hybrid creature, old-media grounding crossed with entertainment-age glam. We could do much, much worse. And someday, we probably will.


Posted by Stephen Silver at April 9, 2006 07:44 PM

As someone who studies this you are a little WRONG BLOGGER! Newpapers are NOT doing well right now and are supposedly on the downward trend financially.

Posted by: A at April 10, 2006 12:32 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?