Media: Fast and Slow

When your TV looked like an old microwave...

When your TV looked like an old microwave…(Photo: smarttvradar.com)

I am not a whiz in the world of text, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Why say something in 140 characters when you can blog 1400 words? 🙂

Some people love slow food. Well, I love slow media. I am not a Luddite: I love technology. It’s great to be alerted to a story or a special moment with a photo or a phrase. But I want the whole story!

When I was a kid (pre-Internet, pre-cable TV even) a rare news story would generate a “news flash.” The program we were watching on TV would be interrupted by an announcement about the news: the death of a world leader or a tornado warning, maybe. This was done only in the most extreme circumstances. To find out more information, we had to wait for the twice-nightly TV news, turn on the radio to get a news update on the half-hour, or wait for the next morning’s newspaper. How archaic!

Some stories were deemed to be so important that they replaced regular TV programming for days on end – when I was very young, I remember the Watergate scandal taking over the airwaves. Mostly, though, we had to wait for details and explanations. By the time we heard the whole story, hours later or overnight, the situation had often been resolved.

The first time this changed for me was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. I was a student, between classes. Another student came in and told a group of us what had happened. Everyone spent the rest of the day waiting for news updates and feeling bad together. Yet, I felt myself getting irritated when students and staff entering or leaving the school constantly provided updates with no “meaning.” This broadcaster said this, that channel believes that – yet no additional information was known. The cause of the accident wasn’t revealed until June when a commission report was released.

That was my first taste of breaking news. To this day, it’s a format I dislike, despite the ascent of CNN and CBC News Network. Yes, I like to know what is happening – some time that day, or even that hour. What grates, for me, is the continuous, reckless speculation. In the absence of evidence, I am fine with stating the possibilities. I’m not fine with the press choosing a “favourite” explanation and boosting it – especially knowing their choice could be swayed by ratings. They might choose an explanation based on what a celebrity believes, or what a passionate bystander believes, or what happened in a similar incident last year.

In those situations, I turn off the feed and wait for information to come to light. I might pore over the details in my own mind and imagine what could have happened, and I might chat about it with family or colleagues. But I don’t need to be the first one in the room to hear the update and inform everyone else.

Lately I feel that News is a competition. Everyone wants to be the first to text, tweet and post the breaking stories so their friends can say “What happened?” and they get to explain it. “What – you didn’t hear?” I suppose the early bird does win, though – they get to put their own spin on the story and influence how everyone else feels.

My favourite way of absorbing the news is very old-fashioned: reading a feature story on an in-depth web site or in an actual magazine that explores the origins of a story and how it developed. Like why is there unrest in the Middle East? Or what do we really know about climate change? And I don’t hesitate to read a whole book!

Like most people, I have pet topics. I firmly stand for the scientific method, so I don’t put much faith in personal anecdotes that are meant to persuade. Like the supposed vaccine and autism connection.  I am happy to read about transformative experiences in which scientific knowledge isn’t necessary – such as emotional responses to art and music. It is having evidence and ignoring it that bothers me, whether it is Obama’s birth certificate or the evolution of human beings. I understand people’s heartfelt need to make sense of mystifying things that happen to them or others. I just have no need to embrace the “truth” of alien landings or the “fakery” of the moon landing. I’m a skeptic, not in the sense of disbelieving everything, but in the sense of reserving judgment until questions are answered. I don’t need to wait forever for perfect data. Always just a little more than I know now 🙂

I am delighted when a friend posts a picture from a concert and says the band was A-MAY-ZZZING! because I get to share for a moment the joy they felt in music. But when someone posts for the 50,000th time that wheat is bad for everybody, I am just annoyed.

I don’t go around in an ill humour because everyone else’s methods of shouting the news are not my style. I’m used to it. It rolls off me. But I haven’t succumbed!

Instead of (or in addition to) keeping up on today’s breaking news, I challenge you to think about and find out about stories like these:

  • What is the current status of self-driving cars?
Photo: beneficialbugs.org

Photo: beneficialbugs.org

  • Why is everyone concerned about honey bees?
  • What is Apple gaining by taking away the headphone jack on the iPhone 7?
  • Which birds are the finalists for Canada’s national bird?
Rihanna

Photo: thatgrapejuice.net (original source unknown)

  • What’s with Rihanna styling herself after FKA Twigs?
  • What goes on at Burning Man?
  • What is happening with the evil Monsanto? Will more evil ensue?
  • Who sings the catchy song that goes “now we’re stressed out”?

 

Such are the workings of my buzzy brain 🙂 How do you like to get your news?

18 comments

  1. Whenever someone asks me why I’m not on Twitter, I tend to reply that Twitter seems like a blog for people who don’t like to write.

    After I post this comment, I’m heading over to CBC to find out which birds are in the finals.

  2. Like you, I like to get my news the old-fashioned way: through reliable, in-depth websites and the evening news on television rather than from fast media. “Continuous, reckless speculation” gets on my nerves. It was only recently when I heard that microcephaly in Brazil was not caused by the Zika virus but by contaminated water in the country. However, I have to admit that of those fascinating questions you’d posed towards the end of the post I have knowledge only on a mere three — and very, very vague knowledge, at that. 🙂 I do like the contents of your buzzy brain.

    • Hi Vera, I am always surprised by what the news makes me think is important 🙂 I try to be aware of when I’m being manipulated but of course the media can do so with consummate skill. Or just relentlessness: of all the thousands of click-bait stories like “You won’t believe what these childhood stars look like now” and “Giant mistakes in major movies,” there are always a few that lure me! (Instead of clicking on the link, I do a Google search).

  3. NicolaB

    I sometimes get caught up in the excitement of breaking news- but once I have seen the footage and heard the speculation a couple of times I get bored (I may still leave it on in the background though, which is a bad habit).
    I tend to read newspapers online for more in depth analysis (though never read the comments, it’s enough to make you despair). I’ve accepted that I never get round to reading a real newspaper any more.

    I find BBC breakfast news here annoying- there is some actual news, but it’s much more about vox pop than proper reports. I really hate wishy washy interviews sitting on the sofa- they always seem dumbed down and only relevant to that one celeb/member of the public being interviewed.
    I still have it on whilst eating breakfast though, and like to watch the five mins of regional news (usually a round up of car accidents and country shows, plus the local weather).

    My friends and I recently had a long discussion via Whatsapp about the proposals here to bring back grammar schools, with lots of article sharing and in depth analysis. It was great!

    I knew a bit about 3 or 4 of your topics; the rest I am putting down to regional news differences 😉

    I can tell you that the UK recently voted for the robin to be the national bird, the angry fighty little bugger that it is!

    • Newspaper comments – the horror! A co-worker of mine has a young adult child who was recently profiled in a major newspaper as a Millennial in Debt. I didn’t know how she or her parents could bear the attacks on their values that were put forward in the comments. I don’t see much point in reading print newspapers since online news is always more up to date. But the habit of sitting down and reading the news thoroughly would be character-building! Our breakfast shows are also chatty and mostly entertainment gossip. I think people watch them to cheer up. Then you can go to work and gripe about the hosts you dislike 🙂 UK robins are so cute and yet so scrappy. The North American ones are different – they are very placid!

  4. I have become addicted to Twitter. I don’t tweet or post, but read the tweets of others I’ve curated. Lots of the tweets have links to interesting articles, or let me know what others are thinking, and I’ve actually learned quite a bit about things I might not have known about otherwise. It all depends on who you follow. The downside is that I’ve come to realize there are some really awful people out there. It’s genuinely frightening to see the racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ sludge that’s churning away out there and that gets posted in others’ mentions, way worse than what you might see on Facebook. I don’t look for it, but I’m glad to not be oblivious to it either. I haven’t watched the news on TV in absolutely ages, but can sense what’s happening from what’s on Twitter and then go from there to check out other sources.

    I know some about five of the topics you posted (bees, self-driving cars, Monsanto – it’s a presence here on Kaua’i, and Burning Man and the headphone issue with iPhone), but now will be looking for more on the other topics!

    • I know you are right about Twitter. For example, our library tweets interesting links to stories on books, arts and culture, and education which I wouldn’t see otherwise. I just don’t want to do it myself! Actually I do end up reading a fair amount of news and opinion from the Facebook “shares” of people I trust. No need to look up the topics that have piqued my interest – I’d rather hear about yours!

  5. Fiona

    Do you have favourite sites to read the long-form news? I read a lot online (more than in books, sadly) but I do read long posts like the NY Times or Guardian in-depth articles and sites like theconversation.com/au, plus a bunch of political sites, articles from my old university website, European news sites etc. I go in spates of reading obsessively on specific topics, including most of the ones you’ve listed above (haven’t read about the birds or Rhianna though.) And I didn’t know who sings ‘We’re stressed out’ but I do see 12 year olds in my house doing those hand-shakes and singing it up 🙂

    • Same as you – The Guardian is one of my go-to sources, as well as NYT when I want a specifically American point of view (or book reviews). I read the features in the Globe and Mail, and CBC is good for science news. I read tech news both on CNET and The Verge. I set up a feed from Flipboard and I find them consistently interesting: you choose the topics you like and I chose science, tech, indie music, design and gender. The Rihanna story is from early 2015 and I just noticed it – sad! (I am a fan of FKA twigs and am not surprised that a more mainstream star would copy her look to appear more edgy).

      • Fiona

        I have to look some of those up. I like The Atlantic as well, Slate and (how could I forget…) the ABC.

    • EcoCatLady

      Washington Post, Rachel Maddow and Bill Moyers – at least for political news here in the US, they are some of the few remaining who do actual journalism.

  6. EcoCatLady

    Great post. I happen to think that the instant news culture we live in is more than annoying – it’s downright dangerous. These days it doesn’t even seem to matter if the “news” is true or not – it only matters that it’s attention grabbing. It’s particularly terrifying in terms of the current presidential race in the US. One candidate in particular (who doesn’t even need naming) will say something outlandish and obviously false – but all that the press reports is what he said… as if it’s true. Weeks later someone will finally get around to reporting that the thing was a blatant lie, but that report receives only the tiniest bit of coverage tucked somewhere in the back pages of the newspaper. How any of these people can get away with calling themselves “journalists” is beyond me.

  7. Margie in Toronto

    I agree with EcoCatLady about the instant news culture – and the fact that “news” has become “entertainment”. Headlines blaring out at us – speculation rather than fact – comments by celebrities who are treated as experts – it is often a complete disgrace – the sloppiness must make true journalist turn in their graves! I think this first really hit home for me during the OJ Simpson trial – this was a double murder for heavens sake and people treated it as though it was a soap opera! I found it horrifying – and it’s gotten worse since then.
    I get my news from a number of different sources, CBC, BBC, The Guardian, The Times, Washington Post etc. and having worked in PR/Communications – I take it all with a grain of salt!
    I also actively try to avoid anything to do with the Kardashians – have disconnected from Facebook, and only have a Twitter account because a friend “gave” it to me as a birthday present. I check in once in a while (find it really confusing and don’t understand the appeal) and rarely post anything.

    • EcoCatLady

      I had to laugh at your comment about the Kardashians… I somehow have managed to insulate myself almost entirely from pop culture – I’m not actively trying to do this, I just have so little interest in it all that apparently I simply tune it all out. When I first heard people talking about the Kardashians, all I could think was. “Why is everybody talking about those strange creatures on Star Trek with the disturbing looking necks?” Of course, it took me years to figure out that Paris Hilton wasn’t a hotel in France! 🙂

  8. jollyhollybanolly111

    I hear you, I really do. I think that is why I like listening to 99.1 CBC radio channel – they don’t just give you some constant update on current news, they will take you into an indepth conversation behind what is happening with Trump or Brexit, eg, that we are going through a second renaissance. They bring you little-heard of stories like the woman who was asked to wear make up for her Body Shop interview or the mayor riding public transit without air conditioning and really pad it out with actual information. I love it. Although – like all news networks – they do bring their own slant to things as opposed to the BBC, which always tries to be neutral.

    • Oh my, second renaissance – we are far apart on that, Holly. I feel the opposite. I think when countries close their borders to protect their natural-born citizens, it is a slippery slope. A lot of people in Canada think the CBC is neutral, but I know some older adults who don’t listen to CBC radio because they think it has a left/liberal slant, and so does the Globe and Mail, while the National Post has a right/conservative bias. It is much more obvious in the UK where there are radically different papers like the Guardian and the Sun! I listen to CBC radio in the car and I like the variety of stories, and also their hosts (I love Candy Palmater!)

      • jollyhollybanolly111

        I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope that the World rights itself again. It is all cyclical and it feels like it will never end. At the moment it feels very much like good vs evil but this has all happened before during the church reform at the hands of Martin Luther and many believe that it was no different to what is happening now. It is very interesting though. But it is all very messed up.

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