Friday, September 14, 2012

The Good News and the Bad News

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about growing up in the 1950s.

Despite the vast differences in our childhood experiences -- large city/big family versus small town/small family -- we were startled by many similarities.

For anyone with memories of growing up during the post-war years, we realize that life was much different then. Families weren't yet glued to the television. There were no computers, no internet, no game systems, no easy way to fritter away hours at a time. People talked, read and visited with neighbors and friends. We went to other people's houses during the evening hours and spent time talking, playing cards or enjoying a good meal. We made our own entertainment.

Hard to imagine.

Today, of course, life is frenetic. Kids are involved in countless "activities" outside of home and school. Most communities either have or provide access to gymnastics, martial arts, soccer and other trendy pursuits. Mom and dad are fortunate if they only have one job each, which likely leaves them exhausted at the end of the day. There are numerous events tugging at their time and money, leaving little inclination to visit with others.

One thing that my friend and I noticed in recounting our childhoods was how completely isolated the public was from events of the time. The lack of television was partially to blame. TV sets were still rather new and in many locations viewing hours were limited to the evening hours. So-called "housewives" were unable to watch hours of talk shows exploring such topics as spousal abuse, excessive tattoos, mysteriously fathered children and dysfunctional families.

We recalled how momentous events were occurring during the 1950s: the Korean Conflict, the McCarthy hearings, the end of segregation, the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial and executions, Dr. Salk's polio vaccine. Yet many of the details of these rather significant events were brushed over by the media. There may have been a blurb in the newspaper or a mention during the evening news, perhaps a clip during the newsreel at the local theatre. But if the public wanted to really know what was going on, they had to seek out the information.

My friend said her mother stayed at home in the 1950s, raising eight children and didn't have time to digest the newspaper each day. No doubt that was the case in many homes of the time. There were other factors at play, as well. The media was "controlled" by barons of the media who picked and chose what information was covered.   Possibly Americans had yet to fully develop their thirst for details and curiosity about the world beyond our borders.

Today's readers/watchers are more acutely aware of life outside the U.S. Due to the globalization of trade and the impact of various parts of the world on one another, we recognize that financial problems in Greece and Ireland can threaten our strength as much as an uprising in Syria.

So, how has the media fed the inquiring minds of today's world? By covering Kris Jenner's latest plastic surgery or alleged topless photos of Kate Middleton. This is what instant media coverage has forced upon us. These are the types of stories that saturate our news sources for all to share.

What the heck happened? How did the media's priorities get so out of line? Naturally, plenty of "junk" news is required to feed the media's 24/7 hunger. There are countless stories about rather insignificant events that occur at insignificant locations to rather insignificant individuals. These features are included to fill the constant need -- we all understand that.

But what about keeping the public informed? Isn't that the main purpose of the media?

Perhaps the problem lies in the bottom line -- $$$. If television doesn't garner the right ratings, even well-structured entertainment is axed. If magazines can't pull enough subscriptions or advertisers, even informative magazines go "digital" or end entirely.

As long as making money is the driving force to the media moguls, we can expect to hear more about the latest scandal than the most recent medical marvel.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi, I enjoy your website and the blog is great.
    By any chance do you welcome guest posts?

    Please let me know by email if you could. I will appreciate it. Thanks