November 10th, 2008 11:11 EST
Airwave Journalism Contributing to the Polarization of American Culture?
Is the nature of airwave journalism contributing to the polarization of American culture? I think so.
Many Americans, young and old, are abandoning television and radio journalism to turn to the Internet for information, rendering airwave journalism a dinosaur.
I look at this situation as a poet and journalist. What I see are formats in which people talk at each other, 24-hour yak, sound byte laid upon sound byte with commercial mortar in between. The anchors use their reporters and their interviewees as sounding boards for their infotaining antics. The central focus is on the manic banter, not information, not an effort to enlighten.
No one listens, everyone talks, and everyone is interrupted either by an anchor, a commercial or the clock.
In such a high-buzz atmosphere viewpoints become reduced to charades of themselves and are essentially used as ping-pong balls. Nothing is elucidated, but everything is turned into an adversarial game. There is a pro and a con, fatuosity handed off as witticism, winners and losers, smart asses and dunces. No discourse, no sustained examination, no big-picture construct. Issues which should be melded into a comprehensible picture are turned into one horse race after another, and the audience is horsed into accepting a culture that consists of being nasty to each other in the name of American values.
This is, to me, a facet of our fractious culture, one in which we talk at each other but turn away from each other before having to listen. It`s rather like throwing grenades and running for cover, and it can`t be healthy for a democracy which must, of need, come together to make decisions and then work together to make those decisions work.
The Fourth Estate needs to reexamine its role, its modus operandi. It has become a facilitator and provocateur, if not the originator, of this grenade-tossing culture. And its public stance is not unlike that of the automakers who, having refused to make fuel-efficient cars, now seek tax money to rescue them from their bad behavior.
In giving us sound-byte and hence polarizing journalism the media have made a decision based on short-term profit-taking rather than visionary thinking. They will pay the consequences. They are paying the consequences as a new generation turns to the web for a clearer, wider look at the world around it. But the media are so self-absorbed, so set on the course of the antic delivery of trivia, that they hardly notice. "