Where Do You Get Your News? Part I: Where Does the News Come From, and Why Does It Matter?

Those were the days, when we knew the news through our radio, and later TV, news commentators such as Ed Murrow and Walter Cronkite: men who brought dignity and poise to the presentation of the news. The ticker tape in the newsroom gave a feeling of the news happening in front of us. People didn’t question where the news came from; it was a moving record of events, often with background and comment mixed in.

Newspapers presented the headlines and did their best with the details. There was plenty of competition among large, small, and medium-sized papers. The news barons emerged, with names like William Randolph Hearst and with him “yellow” journalism and nationalistic fervor. Hearst was not shy about creating his own news or leading the country into war with TR and the Rough Riders.

But that was then, and we must consider, What has happened to the news as we viewed it then?

A depression and two world wars brought the world closer, and economic and political upheavals into public and journalistic awareness. The news is all around us, and people can choose their own flavor or none at all. Technology has given us handheld news on demand; social media has developed a new form of quickly digestible news while keeping some ties to what used to be called news. Speed and punch replace details and analysis.

Donald Trump’s use of Twitter, an offshoot of social media, exemplifies the use of social media to shade traditional news or even to develop a different or counter news story. It plays to a largely different audience and appeals to different interests, including rumor and personality-based reporting. It has given a politician such as Trump wide scope to use hearsay and innuendo to make his points without addressing the news media directly, to avoid questions, or to relegate them to an anecdotal format. A politician now can tell his story without immediate critical reaction from those who follow the news in detail and to some extent cover the author’s footprint with a babble of voices.

Convenient, I would say.

This is a rough attempt to view changes in the news business and in the consumption of news. A subsequent post will analyze the costs of news, including foreign news, and how that has changed the marketplace for news. Questions are always welcome and will be taken up as time and space permit.

-Bill Jackson

Church member Bill Jackson taught political science at Catholic University of America  and Trinity College in Washington, D.C.  He travelled in Pakistan as a student and served in New Delhi, India, in the Foreign Service.  Bill’s essays and poetry also appear on his blog, Bill Jackson Reflects. 

The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.

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