The question: Does media reflect or form culture – was a hot topic at the time I was a young marketing professional. It’s a classic “chicken or the egg” philosophic question.
A Canadian communications professor from those days, Marshall McLuhan, spurred some controversy at the time by stating that the medium IS the message. McLuhan taught that changes in communication technology inevitably have social impact. McLuhan would find current communication technology and its impact on the “news cycle” interesting, perhaps even redemptive.
The news cycle in my youth was 24 hours. That was the time between editions of the morning or afternoon newspapers. As TV became our dominant news source, that was cut to 12 hours, the time between the morning and evening news. In between, we worked, went to school, worked out, and socialized. Now, with my earbuds in even while I’m working out, media technology provides 24 hour and online news sources that have turned the news cycle into a news cyclone.
For me the result is not philosophical since media drenching has simply become fact. And media control exists only in centralized governments, such as China or Russia. I prefer western democracy’s approach to free speech.
I worry that as citizens of this free society we aren’t aware that our own changing patterns of media consumption forms our attitudes, opinions, even affects our mental health.
How does the news cyclone affect your thoughts and behavior?
When my Mom was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune in the 1930s and ‘40s the aim of journalism was to make important news interesting. During a recent NPR interview a journalist indicated that due to competition for attention and ad dollars, reporting’s aim is instead to make interesting news important.
Identifying the fuel for this noise machine is easy: follow the money. It would be disingenuous of me to declare our current state “good” or “bad” since my career has been investing where my clients can get the most attention from their target audience. Good marketers are sensitive to their audience.
As with all capitalist endeavors, the system should eventually moderate itself despite our longing to declare the current state of media disastrous. As Churchill famously said, “Americans will always do the right thing, but only after we’ve exhausted every other option.”
In the meantime, I believe I have a personal responsibility to modify my own consumption and reactions to this media onslaught. If I simply read and believed everything put in front of me these days, I would believe:
- The economy is a mess
- I’m going to get sick any moment unless I lock myself in a hermetically sealed bubble
- And politics is irreparably broken
My 69 years of experience seem to indicate all three of those things have been true for as long as I’ve lived.
And so, while I must be attentive to economic, health and political issues, particularly as they relate to my career and life, the more urgent need for me is to stay out of the news cyclone.