Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Staying Informed: Old News

There was a time when news information was disseminated by a select few who had access to the relevant reports, files, and statistics.   When this was the case, the world gathered around a radio, shared a newspaper, or turned on the television—one that had fewer than ten channels).   This â€Å"news† was often like a leftover meal in terms of value: by the time it was released, the world had moved forward, and something new was hot. Progress was made, and television news programs began to delve deeper into stories; reporters suddenly began delivering â€Å"breaking† news reports, and the information was at least lukewarm when the public got its hands it.   It was the era of reporters like Paul Harvey who took what the world knew, dug more deeply, and presented â€Å"the rest of the story† (Radio Legend Paul Harvey Biography, 2003). Today, a cell phone can alert its owner of breaking news stories from around the world; reporters deliver broadcasts live from battlefields; and the internet has made it possible to receive information almost instantly.   Most consumers now get their news online, via one of hundreds of television channels, or through a variety of print media.   Unfortunately, the days of print media and even local reporting seem to be dying, and while their loss may not even create a ripple, what they have to offer the consumer is irreplaceable. It is true that the average printed report cannot provide the live-action, emotionally packed footage of a series of photographs or a streaming video, but words do matter, and while one’s brain struggles to capture the intricacies of backgrounds, sounds, and images that flash in front of the eyes in photographs and videos, the thought-process of the viewer is overwhelmed by the visual imagery. MSNBC online featured a written report and a series of videos and slide shows on October 16, 2006 that captured the story surrounding the earthquake in Hawaii the previous day. When compared, the headline video and headline print report reveal some very interesting trends in the ways in which the news is disseminated. The headlining video report â€Å"Powerful Earthquakes Shake Hawaii† is two and one-half minutes long and features a variety of images that show damage to a local woman’s home, the picture of a landslide caught by a photographer, various tourists being inconvenienced, file footage of volcanic eruption, the Hawaiian coastline, people buying gas, and shoppers at a grocery store. These pictures are accompanied by interview sound bites or voiced-over by reporter Howard Dashefsky, but the entire report is devoid of real information.   What might one expect as the aftermath of an earthquake on a populated island that is also a tourist attraction?   If I had guessed at the â€Å"aftermath,† I would have imagined almost everything I saw in Dashefsky’s report.   Although the images were fascinating and even engaging at times, I left the report with virtually no residual caring and no remnant thoughts: nothing of value had been added to my brain. The headline print report begins with â€Å"officials fanned out across Hawaii early Monday to inspect bridges and roads following the strongest earthquake to rattle the islands in more than two decades, a 6.6-magnitude quake that caused blackouts and landslides, but no immediate reports of fatalities† (Associated Press).   In the opening paragraph of the print report, I found out what happened; I felt sorrow and relief; and I was driven to consider the after-effects of the earthquake in ways not even broached by the video report.   It took me less than one minute to read the print report, but in that minute I learned about what had happened, where it had happened, that no tsunami was expected, what was being done, what would be done—the list is almost endless. Those who watch the video report will stand around water coolers discussing benign elements of the event.   The will recall the semi-ravaged home of one resident and the fight to get gas and groceries; moreover, they will congratulate themselves on not having wasted their own money on a spoiled Hawaiian vacation.   This is the kind of thinking that is being fostered in the United States: superficial, image-based, self-centered, and desensitized. Those who take (less) time to actually read about the earthquake will stand around the water cooler discussing factual details.   They will likely be amazed by the good fortune of such a historically large earthquake resulting in no fatalities; they will wonder if the roads and bridges where they live would be damaged after such an event; they may ponder how long the state of disaster will remain in effect; they will think about how happy they are not to be there on vacation, but it will most likely not be the first thing on which they comment.   This is the kind of thinker that is in danger of dying in the United States: one who craves facts and the chance to critique them while expanding his/her knowledge base. The ability to receive immediate information is a boon to the news consumer; however, the availability of instant images, facts, and reports must be combined with words that are as stimulating, powerful, and informative as the visual clues—or a numbing of the mind and the senses is bound to occur.   Reports that are piping hot can be delivered to the public as a combination of the best of what can be seen, what can be heard, and what can be read.   Like a dinner filled with the necessary food groups, communication needs to combine its sources and resources for the most palatable and healthiest results. References Associated Press, The.   (October 16, 2006).   Hawaii checks bridges, roads after quake: Landslides and power outages but no reports of deaths.   MSNBC.   Retrieved October 16, 2006, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15286294/. Dashefsky, H.   (October 16, 2006).   Powerful earthquakes shake Hawaii.   MSNBC Video.   Retrieved October 16, 2006, from http://video.msn.com. Radio Legend Paul Harvey Biography.   (2003).   Paul Harvey: The Voice of the New Millennium.   paulharvey.com: ABC Radio Networks.   Retrieved October 16, 2006, from http://www.paulharvey.com/bio.shtml.

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