Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Fri, Sep 02 2005

The News Can't Be "Them" Anymore

I thought George Clooney's recent comments on American news coverage were interesting. One of the things that became evident to me during the last few days is that news coverage is changing as people begin to have more access to their own video and audio devices. I found myself getting very little real information from the TV networks and even cable news stations like CNN. They tend to play the same clips again and again, which was reminsiscent of the terror events of 9-11.

But more and more people are connected in new ways now. This week I found myself turning to the internet, to email and to cell phones for much of the updates I received on Katrina and its effects.

Part of what happened as I began to receive information from sources other than TV and newspapers was that clear conflicts and discrepancies appeared, mostly between what state and federal management folks were saying as opposed to what local parish presidents, relief workers and affected area residents were saying. This was particularly evident in the area of what help was needed. The local staging efforts for relief and security have not been assisted very well by state and federal personnel, in spite of what may have been good intentions. While the TV networks were telling us not to try to get into the areas with water and medical supplies I was receiving word of cries for those things from county/parish rescue workers and citizens.

There's going to be time for plenty of finger-pointing and blaming. It's already begun. But as we get further down the road with all this I think one thing is becoming clear. Political folks and major news outlets have come across as less than stellar in the face of crisis. In an effort to calm people and reduce fear there have been carefully worded phrases and perhaps even outright lies.

I realize Mr. Clooney is promoting his new film about the world of news from the 1950s. But what he said about today's mainstream news is very true. The media in the 1950s had challenges that came from political and social pressures. The media now has pressure from those same areas, although the details may have changed. The difference now is that the American public is learning that there is always a lot more to a "story" than there appears to be on the surface. Nobody on TV gets it all right and nobody on TV gets it all wrong. Perspective and political leanings count, certainly. But all the pat expressions about "liberal media" or "conservative media" mean nothing if we use those as an excuse to sit back and stay ignorant. It's time for us to educate ourselves as private citizens and take time to be willing to hunt down our own sense of what goes on and where we fit in as taxpayers and citizens.

News gathering is beginning to happen at a level where we're not content to sit on the sofa and be entertained or fed like simple-minded caged snakes. We want to make a difference in what we see, what we hear and how we respond. At least some of us do. Hopefully, more are soon to come.

posted at: 10:15 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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