Sunday, May 10, 2009

The uselessness of what passes for broadcast news

Jon Taplin wrote Signal To Noise Ratio. It starts:
Even though most of my time is spent writing a book, I've been wondering why I'm blogging less, reading blogs less, watching less cable news and listening to less talk radio and more music. I've come to the conclusion that the whole mediasphere signal-to-noise ratio has been out of whack since the election in November. 2008 was such an historic year for news with a groundbreaking election contest vying for attention with a once in a generation economic collapse. For the managers of media outlets to try to sustain that intensity and interest level past mid November was a fools errand. But that doesn't mean they didn't try.


Maybe we don't need four hundred channels of TV. Maybe we don't need 346 million blogs. Maybe the careful (and expensive) editing of the New York Times and The New Yorker actually count for something.
I get an interesting insight from Taplin's article.

I am online looking for information, insight and some degree of understanding of the communities I live in, but what I am getting is useless "news." What passes for broadcast "news" today is in fact faux news designed to fill an ever-expanding and inadequately indexed (useless?) news hole. That total news hole is already much larger than anything that will ever be useful to me. The concept of "signal-to-noise" ratio on the broadcast media is the perfect catalyst for understanding. My surprise is that there appears to be such a massive distinction between what passes for "news" and actual useful and informative "information."

My utter disgust at the crap provided by useless "reality" shows that do nothing but offer a cheap product for the business organizations that broadcast uninformative and useless data is high. They are time-wasters intended to deliver ignorant passive and frightened consumers who know nothing except how to buy - buy -buy to advertisers. It saddens me that so many people actually waste their valuable time searching for some form of entertainment in the crap that is broadcast on TV. That's not surprising, though, in a society in which most people are trained to function as ignorant and isolated economic consumers rather than as intelligent actors working in a community of similar people.

The result of the insight is that spending a lot of time attempting to "consume" what is in fact faux news and entertainment is a fool's errand. It is a trap designed for passive and ignorant consumers who provide markets for big businesses. People need community with a lot of organized, useful information, with education and perhaps even insight than they need to simply be consumers of goods and services someone else produces. Broadcast news had the opportunity to provide people with a lot of what they needed, and it abdicated that opportunity because entertainment and faux news presented greater financial profit and political power.

Maybe we really don't need all that broadcasting power. All we really need is some good editors and investigative reporters and scientists working diligently at explaining what is really happening. If so, we damned sure aren't getting it. The existing conceptual "free and unregulated market" as distorted by power-hungry individuals and religious leaders* certainly isn't providing what we need.

* An explanation of my views of how the concepts of an economic free market distorts reality by ignoring the effects of power because the economic effects can be roughly measured mathematically to some extent reliably while power effects cannot will be available upon request if time permits.

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