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The Decline in Journalistic Substance: Does it Matter?

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In response to James Fallows’ four premises in his “Learning to Love the (Shallow, Divisive, Unreliable,) New Media,” April 2011. I must say that while I want desperately to argue against his fears, as I am an optimist at heart, I cannot. I have turned this over and over and I have to say that with only a few points of specific contradiction, as a whole I agree. I believe that this is becoming an age of lies and idiocy. I agree that already there is a tendency for media to follow dollars instead of issues. I believe that we Americans are becoming more isolated. Finally, our ability to concentrate is not only undone by technology, but also by our own expectations to be entertained by the media. However, I do not think that the responsibility lies totally with the Gawker.coms of the world, but within ourselves. This is a trend that has been a long time coming. And, like a train down the track, it cannot be easily stopped.

Fallows writes that this is an age of “truthiness.” The age of mass misinformation is upon us. I remember reading about the age of yellow journalism for a high school history class. We were assigned to read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. We all know the story Sinclair tells. Like his book, the news of those times was written to support a certain viewpoint or perspective. I have often wondered where are the critics of today’s yellow journalism. How is Fox News that much different from the Hearst version of news in 1916? The difference is not apparent to me. However, Americans are less likely to care. We have much lower standards for everything. It is almost as though Vietnam and Nixon were the beginning of the end of American optimism and a sense of real decency. It is as though those two pivot...

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...xistence as a nation have more to do with our economic viability and thus our ability to provide necessary services to each other and our communities? I would say that given the recent tragedies in Japan, it seems apparent to me that our very existence might depend more upon our economic solvency. If we have the resources, we need to rebuild our infrastructure. We need to reinforce our nuclear plants. We need to retrain and support our emergency responders. We need to make sure that we can survive the unthinkable, because that seems a more likely threat. The Media is following the dollars and perhaps so should our government. I am not arguing Fallows’ point. Instead, I am more concerned with what comes next. Perhaps we have to leave behind what we know in order to discover what is to come.

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